For 22 years, November has meant report cards and parent conferences. Since this is my last year of teaching sixth grade, I feel a bit nostalgic and want to offer some observations and advice for parents.
- Don’t ask for extra credit on the day grades close. Students build a grade over many weeks. It’s not going to be fixed by one more assignment, especially if the parent asks instead of the child. Instead, be proactive throughout the semester and make sure your student does their best and hands in all the work all the time.
- Honor the conference time. An appointment with a teacher reserves her time. Be courteous and be on time. Don’t ask to cancel or change the conference time at the last minute (unless it’s an emergency). It’s hard to schedule 31 conferences into a single day (or even two), and it really annoys me when parents don’t show up and don’t call.
- Be prepared. In my classroom, parents have access to graded assignments online 24 hours a day. Look over those grades and talk to your child. Ask them first about why that assignment is missing or why this one is a zero.
- Include your older student in the conference. I ask my students to attend conferences with their parents. Real education involves the teacher, the parent, and the student working together. If the parent and I together decide on a course of action and the student doesn’t buy in, nothing changes.
- Listen actively, even if you’ve heard it before. By the time a student reaches sixth grade, parents have heard it all. I’ve never had a parent say, “What? He’s not turning in work?” or “What? She talks in class?” Parents know. So how do we, a team of parent, teacher, and child, improve the behavior? If something is going to change, someone needs to change. The student already has a new teacher. What are you willing or able to change at home?
- Most importantly, believe the teacher has your child’s best interests in mind. The teacher may not be perfect, but he/she is with your child for the entire school day. They know what students need to succeed in today’s educational environment. I’ve had parents argue with me about the value of homework, about using chromebooks in class, and about formatting essays, among other things. Trust that the teacher wants your child to succeed.
I could probably continue this list, but I’ll stop there. Please enjoy meeting with your child’s teacher this fall as much as I enjoy meeting with you! Happy Conferences!