Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Talking Parents Back From the Edge

Today is Parent/Teacher conference day. I’ve posted about this before [HERE] and [HERE], but this year I’d like to look at the event from the point of view of “talking parents back from the edge”.

I have several students whose parents, to be polite, ride their kids hard. They have high expectations for their children and a sometimes rigid belief that, without constant vigilance, their children will not do their job well as students. There are times when such diligence is necessary, to be sure, but I often see examples when parents who are too watchful do more harm than good.

One of my conferences involved a mom whose daughter is a good student. She earns credit in my class, her exams show that she understands what she’s seeing and her participation is consistently good. The one issue I have is that she doesn’t always keep up on her homework. It comes in, but not always in the week that it’s due. This does not bother me because my course is structured to allow students the flexibility to take the time they need to do such work. Mom, however, heard that her daughter owed me homework and... well, let’s say she came in ready to rake her kid over hot coals.

I welcomed mom into my (freshly cleaned and swept) space and she started right in on how she was disappointed in her daughter’s performance and that she wanted me to know that she found it unacceptable. I said that I appreciated the fact that she took her daughter’s education seriously and how refreshing it was to see a parent genuinely concerned for the welfare of her child. I then painted the picture of her daughter’s performance in my class -- she asks questions and offers answers, even at the risk of being wrong; she helps other students to understand; she does very creative work and she takes the time to review and revise her work to improve it. That she is a chatty cathy is part of her personality, and it is only a problem if it gets in the way of what I’m doing in the classroom. If I tell her to rein it in, she does. That her homework is behind schedule is something we’ve talked about, and I’m confident she’ll get it done. If I am ever worried about her, I will reach out immediately, but the narrative says she’s doing fine. Trust me to tell you the truth.

By the time mom left, she had cooled off considerably. The kid whispered “thank you” as she hugged me good-bye.

You’re welcome!

Now go do your homework.

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