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!!!!!).