No, not that meet the parents (although I will admit it is one of my favourite funny movies). No, this is about an altogether different kind of Meet the Parents.
It’s the time of year when school boards across the country organize the first Parent-Teacher Conference of the year, formerly known as Meet the Teacher (or in some cases, Meet the Creature!)
I know there are lots of “how-to” guides for parents out there, offering advice on how to handle a meeting with your child’s teacher, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. I’m also well aware that there’s a lot of press attention focused on teachers in Ontario and BC right now, and I don’t want to stir up any controversy. However, as a teacher myself, I thought it might be fun to give you an insider’s perspective on this ubiquitous event in every parent’s, child’s and teacher’s life.
Here’s how it works for me. I will have been with my students for a grand total of thirteen school days when I sit down for that first conference next Thursday evening. That’s thirteen days of school to get to know 25 new people. And that’s not counting the times when they’re not with me, because they’re in Phys Ed or Music class, or they’re out for recess or lunch. The point is: I haven’t had a lot of time to get to know — in depth — each child’s talents and academic strengths and cute little idiosyncrasies, despite firing a battery of different kinds of assessments their way in the first week of school.
That’s the background. Now let’s take a look at the day itself. Since we’re still in the first month of school, I will arrive at work early – probably a good 45 minutes before the bell rings at 9:05. Then I’ll teach (as usual) for the day. At the dismissal bell, I’ll head outside to supervise the safety patrollers at the crosswalk for 15 minutes. After that, I’ll come inside and I’ll have 20 minutes to eat dinner before the first parents arrive at 4:00 p.m. Then, because the teachers at my school are always solidly booked for conferences, I’ll be in back-to-back meetings until 8:00 p.m., when I’ll stumble home and pick it all up again the next day at 8:00 a.m., meeting with parents in back-to-back conferences again until 1:00 p.m.
I’m not whining – I love my job and I wouldn’t consider doing anything else. Sure, there are times when a teacher’s workload is overwhelming (I’m running a new robotics program this year and I’ve been at school three of the last four weekends preparing it), but then again, there are other times when we have long stretches of holiday time unheard-of in the public sector. I don’t complain. I just want to set the stage for you, to help you understand where your child’s teacher is coming from — what his or her day has been like — at that first, important meeting.
So what’s the point here? Just this: be generous. See your conference time as an opportunity to get to know an important stakeholder in your child’s education, and not as an interrogation session. Don’t expect your child’s teacher to be able to rattle off your child’s aptitudes from memory, but do expect him or her to be open and willing to listen to you. The teaching profession is all about relationships – taking the time to build a foundation for a good relationship with your child’s teacher will pay dividends for your child for years to come.