Written by Doctor G

Parent Teacher Conferences

Did you check out this post because you had a gut reaction to the title? These are three surprisingly emotional words. For a small percentage of parents (mostly parents of kindergarteners) this is a time for hearing someone else talk about how wonderful your child is. For some parents, this is a gauntlet to be run. Parents of kids with lots of challenges at school go into these meetings with low expectations and a heavy heart. And of course, there are many in the middle.

I’m pretty sure most people feel about parent-teacher conferences the same way they feel about the yearly well child check up. I think my kid is ok, but here is an expert that might tell me differently. Best case scenario, I leave with the same feeling I went in: my kid is OK.

We had conferences this morning for our 3rd and 1st graders. Take home point? Well, we’re not the only ones who think that the 1st grader needs to learn some empathy, and the 3rd grader is learning the time-honored skill of avoiding work he thinks is too hard. We heard stories that made us proud and some that made us cringe. Also, as is common in our tradition, we spoke to 7 people and got 10 differing opinions.

There is a whole tangent to be had here. Is school performance the be-all and end-all of kid evaluation? No. Should we put as much emphasis on academics as we do? Is traditional school even the best way to teach kids? I’m going to abdicate this whole part of the conversation for a later time.

Bottom line? School is what most of us have and it’s a pretty good microcosm for helping us learn about our kids and what they each need. In addition to the three R’s, children learn all kinds of things at school that they need to be adults who can get along with others.

At school kids learn most of what they need to know to keep a job. If you’ve been reading along, you know that I believe children learn about romantic relationship mostly at home. Some of the work skills they will need you can reinforce at home as well. Truth is, though, if you want your future-employee to succeed (meaning keep receiving a paycheck), they need school.* They need teachers (even the icky ones) who expect things of them; to have to work in groups with kids they don’t like; to get consequences and rewards based entirely on their own work. They have to learn to navigate the lunchroom and the playground.

Parent teacher conferences are a window. A chance to see a part of our kids we can only guess at, to get the feedback of someone who actually does have experience with 300 other eight year olds to compare. As parents we have to ask hard questions and we have to actually listen to the answers.

We don’t have to agree! Parent-teacher conferences are not a peace summit meeting. All parties do not have to come to an accord about the strengths and flaws of the student in ten minutes. However, parent-teacher conferences should make us better parents and the teachers better too.

What if we could go to this meeting for someone else’s kid? Take notes and report back to them about what we learned and what can be done. Takes some of the emotion out, right? Which probably means I need to work harder on taking my pride out of my kids’ conferences.

*This is not a post about home-school vs traditional school.  If you have a question about my opinions on home-schooling, drop it off here.

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1 thought on “Parent Teacher Conferences”

  1. Funny, “…not a peace summit meeting.” True about taking emotion out. It’s hard to do. Our kids are different children in school than the ones we know at home. Many behave better. It’s always a surprise, but we’ve got to try to remain stoic as they tell us sometimes unpleasant things. But, it’s all for good if we use the info to empower our kids afterward….or bribe them…

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