A Parent-Teacher Conference Manifesto

A Parent-Teacher Conference Manifesto

The good news: we are proud and overwhelmed by the number of conferences already scheduled.

The bad news: Parents, showing up to conferences is not enough.

Let me explain...

Conferences are not about the teacher talking at the parent. They're not a report from the nervous educator behind his/her desk to the squinting/nodding/grimacing parent on the other side. And they're certainly not only about a letter or percentage on a sheet of paper.

That's not a conference; that's an accounting, a one-way transaction.

A true conference is a microcosm of something much more powerful: the collaboration of adult forces on behalf of the best interest of a child. In other words, it's a give-and-take based on a relationship of mutual care and concern for a child.

Every bit of research - whether another predictable graduate study, or the groundbreaking The Nurture Assumption by Dr. Judith Rich Harris - verifies that adult involvement and concern in student learning has a positive correlation to student success. That's why it matters that you ask about their day, take interest in their homework, show up to their performances, put the iPhone aside so as to be present when they tell their stories, and know/remember their teachers' names.

As a teacher I loved conferences, and it surprised me to hear colleagues gripe: "We only see the parents of kids with high grades," they'd say. Or, "Well, the ones we need to see won't show up," they'd complain. They'd joke about how they should just put an audio loop on play: "Your son or daughter has a high B or strong A. They work well in groups and are a joy to have in class..."

As I considered this robotic reply I wondered aloud why I didn't have these same complaints, and that's when a teacher of freshmen punched me in the gut: "You teach advanced courses - kids in there are hungry to learn because their parents are invested in more than the grade. They really want to know if their kid is growing, not just showing up and doing school."

I repeat: "...hungry to learn because their parents are invested..."

BAM!

Parents of my students didn't show up to conferences. As a matter of fact, they attacked conferences. Coming from various income levels, racial backgrounds, and educational pedigrees, they nonetheless shared this trait: They wanted blunt answers about how they could work with me to make good students great ones, and great ones extraordinary. Always respectful, always polite, always demanding a spirit of TOGETHER, these parents didn't give birth to prodigies. No, they gave birth to children...and then they invested in their child's future with the educators they trusted.

In that spirit, our teachers at Cathedral may request that you do some "homework" before conferences. This small task could be as simple as jotting down a few ideas or considering a few points prior to meeting with them. The goal for our teachers is to extend our hand in the hopes that you, their first teachers, grasp it. Then, together, we will form a bridge to successful futures for the children of Cathedral of the Risen Christ School. After all, that's what a family of families should do.

So don't think about just showing up to conferences. Instead, let's focus on teaming up.

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