Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Wrong Parents

Why is it that the parents you need to see are not the parents who show up for Parent/Teacher Conference Day?

I met with parents all afternoon and, while it was certainly wonderful to sit with committed parents about the wonderful work their kids are doing in my class, it was not how I might have best spent those four hours. Of the 75 students in my classes, 6 of them are either beyond hope or very close to it. I would have liked to talk to these parents to help figure out how to support these kids next year. I have another 10 who, while not at the door of No Credit, have some serious work to do if they want to get through the class in good form. I would like to talk to these parents to help put supports and routines in place to make the work these kids have to do a little less painful.

I love dishing to the 59 other sets of parents, extolling the virtues and successes of their offspring. It makes everyone feel good, and heaven knows there is not enough of that in public education. They’re just the kinds of conversations I needed to be having today.

Having said that, it really is difficult to take full responsibility for initiating the dialog. These parents have known for a while that their students have been struggling. They’ve gotten the reports from school. In many cases, I’ve tried to call or email home. It is truly unfortunate that these parents are only rarely able to unilaterally give quality help to their children when they need it but, instead of working with me to collaborate on ways to get their kids the help they need, they avoid or ignore the situation. This is often exactly the behavior that led to the problems the students, themselves, are having.

I get better results when I work with the student directly (these are high schoolers, mind you, so I can do that). I believe strongly in teaching young adults to make decisions for themselves, and they appreciate the opportunity to work their problems out on their own and, far more often than not, they full take responsibility for the results of their efforts. If they earn credit, they are proud of the fact that they did it on their own; if they don’t, there’s no blame thrown around. They may be angry or sad or disappointed, but they own the result. This is as good a thing to teach as Spanish or French, I think,

I wish the adults could learn the same thing.

1 comment:

Mrs. Chili said...

Are you familiar with this woman?

She's doing a whole series about parent/teacher interactions lately...