Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Meeting of the Minds

Okay, as I mentioned before, I am a teacher. I teach every students from almost every age. Today and tomorrow are our Middle School's Parent-Teacher Conferences, or as I have come to think of them, the useless exercise in futility. It's no secret that these conferences are meant to help the students who are struggling in their classes, and reassure the parents of students who are doing fine. Unfortunately this isn't usually the case.
Today, I actually saw a parent that I needed to see. If Darwinism was right, this kid would either have never been born, or would have been eaten by a giant sloth at birth. His intelligence is not in question. It just simply isn't there. When asked today for their homework assignment, he glanced up with barely a bulb burning and asked, "what assignment?" I know that's not totally unusual, but seriously, this kid scares us sometimes with things he says or asks.
What was surprising was that I could actually tell his father that he doesn't pay attention in class. You see, most of the time, the only parents we see are the parents of good students (and not even ALL of them!). I teach two classes at this school, with only about 25 or 26 students between them. And no, I don't like small class sizes, so don't even think that. This means that while the teachers who have six middle school classes to deal with are seeing the dozens of parent that come to visit, I get to drift in a haze for an hour and a half hoping the clock will speed up so I can get to the important things I need to do.
Now someone might say, "But Parent-Teacher conferences are important!" Well, they can be. But for me they are just another sign of one of the things that is wrong with education. So I'm going to hop up onto this soap-box and give you a little bit of advice.
1) Care about your kids' education. Not in the carrying-signs-and-voting-for-education-reform-candidates kind of way. Get involved! Be a presence at school board meetings. Volunteer your time if you can. Actually meet the teachers in you kid's life.
2) Don't sit back and leave it all up to the school. You will make the biggest impact on your child's life, for good or ill, so  be involved with what they do. Ask them how their day went, ask them if they have homework. Make them do it. Ask them if they turned it into the teacher. Show an interest in what they do. If you aren't interested, why should they be?
3) Attend Parent-Teacher conferences. But don't just go and walk around in a stupor. Ask the teachers pointed questions and listen to how they respond. If they are gushing enthusiasm like oil from a BP well, then you know things are okay. If they look away and pause while trying to come up with a polite way of telling you your child is only slightly brighter than a ficus tree, then delve a little deeper. You may just find that you can do something to assist in remedying the situation.
4) Talk to other parents who are doing these same things, and even look to helping other parents become actively-minded. As a teacher, if I feel the parents have already given up on their child, I see very little hope.  I will do my best to "save" your child, but I cannot do it alone. Believe me when I say that your child's welfare is in the thick of everything I do. But if you don't meet me part way, I will NEVER make enough of a difference to matter in the end (yes there are rare cases where a teacher can change a child's life, BUT THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR JOB!!!!!).
So now I get to go back to my school tomorrow and sit alone at a table for two hours, hoping some parents will come by to keep me awake if nothing else. Perhaps one or two will make my day a little brighter with an understanding, if slightly sheepish smile. Perhaps one will actually go home and start helping where they didn't before. But I will be there. Waiting. Will I see you there?


  1. For those who don't know, I am Mr. Giggles' brother. I too am a teacher, as is my wife. I can only concur with what has been said here. In 7 years of parent-teacher conferences, with as many as 75 students per year (or more), I have only visited with perhaps 25 parents TOTAL. That is meeting twice a year for this purpose, and usually the parents that I saw were for the straight "A" student. Care, and show up.

  2. Thanks, Stick. If only, if only....
    BTW, FYI everyone, our sister Delirious emailed me to let me know comments were not being allowed. She was also concerned that I might have been just criticizing that one student instead of helping him, and that perhaps he just had ADD. Although I did take a few pot-shots in this post at that kid, I am always mindful of what will help the students succeed. But, Delirious, the point of the post was to just say that PARENTS are the number one asset in that success. Not a lack of learning disabilities, not poor teaching, definitely not stupid governmental idiocies like "NCLB." Parents. And anyone who knows her kids know that Delirious IS involved, and that her kids are on pathways to success!

  3. It's kind of funny, cause I just went to the parent teacher conferences for my son hoping to get information on how to help my son succeed in his classes. And of all the teachers he has, guess how many were there? NONE! They were all gone due to football practice or other such things. The only one there was in the auditorium and he had a bunch of people around him like they were having rehearsal. The others had notes on their doors excusing their absences(and even a few didn't have a note, they were just not there). Needless to say, I didn't get any time with any of his teachers. I thought, "Why have parent teacher conferences at all if they know teachers won't be available?" You are obviously one of the few teachers that care enough to be around when they are supposed to be. I applaud you for taking the time to sit and wait even if only few parents come to talk to you.

  4. Thanks, Channie! Actually, our teachers are required to attend unless unavoidable. But where some teachers have dozens of parents to visit with, I get five or six. My only wish is for MORE parents!