My life is a quilt, the blocks and fabrics created from all the different events and experiences I've lived. I have Mom blocks, friend squares, wife fabric and textiles I wish weren't there. Nestled inbetween all those blocks are my teacher experiences. An important part of my life quilt was/is being an educator. Every so often, I just have to blog about it and this is one of those times.
I taught full time in Illinois public schools for 35 years, now I teach part time at public Jr. Colleges. One big difference between the two is direct parental involvement with the instructors and that is appropriate. As you guide your child through school your overall goal should be to create a self sufficient student who can advocate, problem solve and learn solo. Tough, I know because I have wanted to rush in and solve my girls' problems as well.
Open Houses are brief meet and greets for you to see the "Forest" part of your child's classes. They are generally right at the beginning and I hope you were able to go. I hope you went with a good attitude and had something positive to report to your child upon your return home. You would be shocked how many kids come to school and share with the teacher the parents' opinion of the night. Even if you have to say, "I liked the great posters up in the classroom" find something positive to say. Start the year off with a smile!
At Open House you probably were given a way to privately contact the teacher. I always liked email. Everyone got to read/answer when it was convenient and often we choose our written words more carefully. (Long nasty voice mails to the teacher will be played in the teachers' lounge, just thought I would mention that.)
After Open House the next big event is usually Conferences. This is the opportunity for the "Trees" instead of the "Forest" view, specifically one tree, yours! When you attend conferences you want to get a really good view of how the teacher perceives your child and you will want to work with the teacher. You'll arrive sober, on time and with your cell phone turned off. It really never mattered to me how a parent dressed, don't worry if you are on your way to the health club or on your way home from construction. I just didn't want to see any cleavage or pajamas, everything else is good.
In your chat with the teacher she may be very direct and you will know exactly what she is saying, how she is trying to help your child. I almost always was but I can remember times when I just couldn't lay it on the line. Maybe I was afraid, maybe I thought the parent couldn't handle it or would go to the principal, maybe I was younger then. But here's my guide to the Real Meanings behind 10 Teacher comments you may hear at Conferences.
1. Your child leads by quiet example. I actually used this quote and I just didn't have the heart to say I was worried that this child was too quiet. I was hoping they would tell me of spontaneous conversations. Instead they seemed thrilled so I left it at that.
2. Your child is sure lively. This is probably not a compliment. It means I try to think of every possible way to keep your kid busy - passing out papers, delivering messages, or whatever but every once in a while, this kid needs to be able to sit still.
3. Does your child have any gastrointestinal problems of which I should be aware? I actually started more conversations this way than I care to remember. Jr. High boys like to fart on purpose, what can I say? I want to be sure there isn't a medical issue before we discuss solutions.
4. I wish your child attended school regularly so she could participate more. This means you are keeping your kid home too much. I hope you're not using him or her for baby sitting or being your confidante and disguising it as illness. You know you shouldn't be doing this or you wouldn't feel a bit guilty. Send Junior to school.
5. Your child and I have worked through several strategies to increase work production with varying success. In other words, unless I corner this kid with no way out, nothing is getting done. Don't make excuses, let's get Junior to work.
6. Your child's work doesn't always seem to be his or her own. Quit doing your kid's homework.
7. What can I tell you, your child is a delight to have in my class. Smile blissfully. Don't ask for ways for your kid to improve, enjoy the moment.
8. Your child is a great kid I just wish she would do (fill in the blank.) Hey, we all need a little tweaking. Work with the teacher and your child will benefit.
9. How do you think your child feels about ________? Your kid's teacher may have seen or noticed something you may like to know. Over the years I used this beginning to tell a Mom about her daughter binding her breasts and changing to boy's clothes in the bathroom, another girl from a non religious household changing to a Burqa in the bathroom and a boy wanting to stay in my room every lunch hour. If you do not want to know the teacher's insights, reply, "I have no idea, how are her grades?" You'll be back to an academic discussion.
10. I am so proud of the way your child did this or that. Specific compliments are meant to be delivered to your child, they will wiggle with happiness. It may be paired with number 8 but enjoy the good parts.
I hope you and your child enjoy your conference experience. As a teacher, I was energized by them and loved good results. Less than a handful of my conferences were not positive experiences. It's a great way to help your child but don't worry if you can't make it. You can always email the teacher and that you can do in your pajamas!
Being a teacher made me Sew happy!
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