Saturday, March 5, 2011

parents and teachers and conferences

I just held my first round of parent/teacher conferences with the parents of my pre-Kindergarten students. In some ways this felt extraneous, since I see these parents every day when they pick up their children (it so happens that I don't have any bus riders this year). But in other ways it felt absolutely essential, because most of them speak Spanish as a first language, and my Spanish is only good enough for a casual conversation, not for an in-depth discussion. (I am working on this. I need to improve my Spanish, stat.) At the conferences, we have time devoted just to that one family, and I have a translator, and I have materials ready for them to see and for us to talk about. So it's very useful and very artificial at the same time.

To cut down on the artificial quality of it, I try to keep it as conversational as possible. I greet them at the door, to communicate that they are my welcome guests, not an appointment. I offer them cookies and water. I sit next to them so we can look at the portfolio and discuss it together, not across the table from them like I'm conducting a job interview. I ask them if they have questions or concerns or comments, so I'm not talking the whole time.

I've been the parent in this equation at many, many parent/teacher conferences, and I would have liked (and occasionally received) this kind of treatment. But the bottom line, what I always wanted to know (especially when mine were really small, as the children in my class are) was this: is my child loved? Is my child safe? Does my child have friends?

So that's the message with which I start and end the session. I'm so glad to be your child's teacher. I love your child. Your child is safe here. Your child has friends. Frankly, how many letters your child knows, or how high your child can count, feels like small potatoes compared with that. Or, perhaps what I mean is that any academic issues feel solvable after that.

I'm humbled after all these women and men up-ended their schedules to sit down with me and attend so carefully to every word I said. I'm reminded what a huge gift and responsibility I have to care for and educate their little ones, every day. It's the way I feel about all my own children's teachers. I am trusting them with so much.

My parenting life informs my teaching life every day.

1 comment:

  1. You have said so many different things here that struck close to home. Parenting and teaching are so entwined it amazes me sometimes. I think many non-parents are wonderful teachers, but I think I'm a better teacher since I became a parent.

    Your conferences sound so lovely. I completely agree with the big message parents want to hear. I'm going to have to try some of our comfort-making ideas.

    Finally, it makes me sad so often that I've let my Spanish fall away and it is almost useless now. I want to change that but I haven't figured out how.