02 November 2009

Parent Teacher Conferences

Parent - Teacher conferences are mostly a waste of time. I think we all know that if the teacher has a genuine concern, likely her fingers aren't broken and she can pick up the phone. And most parents are able to send an email, make a phone call or schedule a meeting. What's the point of the parent-teacher conference?

I think it's to sell books at the book fair and give teachers an easy day off with pay later for this extra "work" they do that night, yapping with the parents about this or that. (Not a job I'd want, but hello? My husband is practically a slave and doesn't get paid "extra" for weekends or beeper duty. He doesn't suddenly get allergic and get a super comp day if he has to remain in the building for more than exactly 40 hours each week. But, see, that's because he isn't a member of a teachers' union. Somehow folks like him can't lobby, get great benefits and clean up to the tune of 40% of the state budget "for the kids." I'm thinking WE have kids, too, but that doesn't count...)

Tom Utley wrote a little piece for The Mail Online about these dopey conferences and how some teachers have the audacity to think that parents need to rearrange their schedules for the school, rather than the other way 'round. He had just received a "snotty" note demanding a good excuse for missing a mandatory conference.

"Well, I don't finish work until 9.30pm at the earliest. I wondered how this teacher would feel if I summoned her to my office on the other side of London at a time she couldn't manage - and then demanded a written explanation and apology."

"Besides, I've always found these evenings a complete waste of time for teachers and parents alike. Yes, I know that my boys are intelligent, and I know that they could work harder. Why should my wife and I have to queue for three hours to be told that, by one teacher after another?"

"Fizzing with indignation, therefore, I seized the reply slip - headed in bold type 'Non Attendance at Year 11 Parents Meeting' and beginning 'I/we were not able to attend the Year 11 Parents Meeting because. . .'. "

"I wrote: 'In these desperate times for job security in the private sector, I simply cannot afford to take time off in the middle of my working day to accommodate your desire to get home early and your unwillingness to hold parents' evenings at the weekend. I am disappointed that you seem unable to appreciate what is happening in the world beyond the school gates.'"

Bwa ha haaaa. Too bad he didn't actually send it. That would encourage parent-teacher dialogue for sure. REAL dialogue.

As an aside, I've been in contact with G's teacher and I flat-out told her that I wasn't going to rearrange my schedule to be there that night. Frankly, being told my kid is this or that in front of the other parents after rearranging my schedule, parking in the hinterlands and jostling about in a crowded gym isn't going to make me feel all friendly and welcome. Why do that?

Hopefully, I'm not in the "bad parent" file. If I am, at least I didn't expend too much energy to get there. :P

8 comments:

  1. LOL You do make me laugh so. You are spot on here, and I'm just glad I don't have to presently deal with these sort of meetings.

    I'm amazed at the creativity our local public school has for taking days off of school. I have yet to find (and I compare notes with others, yes I do) another school as equally creative. Too bad that creativity isn't put to better use in their classrooms.

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  2. Way to go !! I have never dealt with conferences, don't think I want to LOL

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  3. It doesn't matter what the adult issues or petty power games are. Either it's better for the kids, or worse, and that is how to govern education thinking large and small. Too often that focus gets lost at school and at home both, especially when the uncritical chorus of friends with similar resentments chime in, in the teacher lounge or on a mom blog.

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  4. In Japan the public school teachers come to your house for the parent teacher conference. Wouldn't that be fun?! I'm so glad that I don't have to do that.

    For what it's worth, my (self-diagnosed) ADD teacher husband pretty much feels the same way about those conferences. He doesn't even get extra pay. He also opted out of the teacher's union (such a rebel), not that his private school teacher's union is on the same scale as the US government school version.

    I say you did the right thing.

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  5. I can't speak for conferences with elementary school teachers as none of my kids attend public school during those years. But in high school I've found them to be useful. Sometimes emails aren't enough.

    We've had a couple of problem teachers over the years (and they are the least likely to call or send a note) and my experience is that they become a lot less problematic once they've met me (I am the least intimidating person I know, but I am articulate and ask direct questions and this seems to rattle these). Also, if you have a kid who is inclined to play both ends against the middle (like I did with my first born), this pretty well nips that in the bud. At our high school the teachers all gather in the cafeteria at various tables which makes it easy to move between them. The conferences are private. It takes about thirty to forty minutes, and thats if I feel the need to talk to all of them. Then I'm done for another six weeks. I don't think I've ever been told that one was "mandatory" and once Jeremiah hit his junior year and was making straight As and near the top of his class, I didn't feel the need to make every single one.

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  6. Mykidsmom, I think it's mostly the administrators who are being "creative," as I can't imagine hanging out for hours in the gym with no privacy or opportunity for restroom breaks constitutes a "good time" for the teachers (!!) but it looks good on paper, I suppose. Parent-teacher conferences. Empowerment. Stuff. I would imagine I would keep thinking about my day off and it would be worth it though LOL

    My point was just that you know what? The unions no doubt negotiated the extra time off after. Time that should have been spent *teaching* and stuff.

    Jana, you do NOT want to... trust me... my fave conference was the one in which my son's kindergarten teacher asked me to tell my son not to tell the other kids about Santa. He had told them that when their moms said Santa was real that it proved that they were liars. Um, I told the teacher that maybe the parents shouldn't lie to their kids if they don't want to be called liars, then...

    JJ, I *would* agree with you except it's not about what's best for the kids at all when we're discussing conferences. It's about the book sales and PTA drives, I'm thinking, because I have (after nearly 12 years as a public school mom... straight, no less) yet to see a conference that respects the dignity of the student and parent. Usually these are more like cattle drives than conferences.

    A real conference? A real appointment in which the teacher really wants to meet to discuss a genuine issue? I'm ok with that.

    But, have you been to parent-teacher conferences at a public school lately? There's a reason why parents dread 'em and funny articles like this get written. They're beyond insulting. I could get more information in two emails than I ever could in two hours standing around in the gym.

    I just can't see making a super effort to get out of the house (which is what it would take) just to do that.

    Sue, I wouldn't have a problem with that if I felt that the teacher were ok with large families/ homeschooling/ crazy Christians. Certainly because of our therapies with First Steps, I have people over about 8 times a week. It wouldn't be any extra effort to clean, really. I honest to gracious don't have anything to hide.

    But if it were mandatory? I'd fight it and get nasty about it. LOL which would of course convince others I must have something to hide... (I mean, if I object, I must be hiding something REALLY BIG, right??!)

    Really, we've had conferences at home through the local special-needs preschool and I LOVED those. The teacher could see a little bitty kid in his "home environment" and he'd give her a hug and talk about his favourite toy and toddle off.

    *sniff* I miss the old days when my homeschoolers were in preschool. I could have been such a supportive public school mom, *if only.* I really coulda. Those days are just so over now. The trust is gone. I still do like the teachers at that building and look forward to seeing them befriend Woodjie. After that... is something I really don't want to think about yet.

    Mary, I *do* happen to have a kid like that, but it isn't (unfortunately!) through intense manipulation. G has genuine difficulty with language processing, following directions and bringing papers home. I'm totally ok with emails and phone calls. I totally back up his special ed teacher. She's awesome.

    I just... can't go to these stupid conferences. Nope. Not gonna. She'd be obligated to bring up all G's faults right in front of everybody, and I'd be obligated to nod my head.

    Nobody wins.

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  7. Yeah, I think they are a HUGE waste of time. I hate how they would never call me and always want to me meet with them in person about ANY issue. It is really hard to do that and completely throws off my day. It would be about something really dumb too.

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  8. I still have the same problem with my younger son's school that I've had since it was my older son's school: DAYTIME parent-teacher conferences.

    These are held in the classroom, and held in private (no one to overhear except the other teachers who might be there to talk about your child). However, they're always during the day!

    Now, I'm not so old I can't remember my childhood - and I remember that even though NO MOM WORKED BACK THEN, the conferences were held in the EVENINGS. No shutting down the school for a day or two and expecting you to lose your job for it.

    So I mark the "8:00" slot for my preference, hoping I won't be too late for work that day, and attend - but resent every minute of it.

    Okay, back in prehistory there Mom always seemed to be home all day - and conferences were in the evening. Now that we ALL work (bonus: I'm a single mom, so I'm the ONLY one feeding these boys), they hold them in the daytime? Really? Can't give up THEIR evenings, but we can be forced to lose our jobs?

    Thanks for letting me vent. (First time visitor today, BTW.)

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)