The parent/teacher conference, from both sides of the desk

This is parent/teacher conference week in our school district. I can’t say I’m exactly missing those days. Not counting the 20-50 conferences I conducted EACH TIME during the years I was teaching, The Husband and/or I (almost always we both attended) participated in at least 60 conferences for our own kids over the years. Oh, the memories:

From my teaching perspective:
•The year one of my conferences was interrupted by two moms in the hallway who were waiting for their turn, and who got into a shouting match that threatened to become physically violent. Each was insulting the other’s child, and the language was getting pretty foul. I left the conference I was in and put on my best teacher voice to tell the two mom thugs they absolutely could not act this way in the school building and they could either show some civilized behavior or leave. That was my first year of teaching. Sheesh!

•Then there was the year I had 25 kindergarteners in the morning and another 25 in the afternoon, and the aide I had assigned to me occasionally (because she was driving everyone else nuts and the principal had to find something to do with her) took it upon herself to fill out the conference time reminder notes I wanted to send to each parent.
With 50 parents to squeeze in, every slot in both days was full. If you’re a mom or dad who’s done the parent/teacher conference thing, you know that early in the year you sign up for a time that works for you, and set it in stone on your personal calendar (or, alternately, you forget you ever signed up for a conference). Well, this “helper” managed to shift the time slots by a couple of slots for EVERY SINGLE person. I didn’t discover the error until the next day when a mom called to ask why she’d been given a time she didn’t sign up for. This was in the days before everybody and their dog had email, so the only way to fix the problem was to send out ANOTHER note and hope parents read the new, corrected one. Try doing that without accepting responsibility for the mistake OR throwing a not-very-bright aide under the bus. Nightmare time.

imageFrom a mom perspective:
•There was the preschool conference for Middle Sister. It was an excellent preschool program – she was a regular ed. peer model in a special ed. preschool class run by our district. But The Husband and I weren’t huge fans of the teacher (we’ve followed her career all these years and have been less and less impressed with her over time). So at the conference this teacher made a point of telling us that our daughter would need to learn not to correct the teacher in front of the class. Yeah, well, that told us a whole lot more about the teacher than it did about our daughter. We knew very well that there was plenty to say about our four-year-old’s incredibly empathetic and caring nature; the way she showed love to her classmates and let them know they were important to her. We didn’t hear any of that. Sad.

•And the year when we heard, as always, all the awesome academic accomplishments of our oldest, which came as no surprise. Far more soul-satisfying was the story the teacher shared with us about a new kid in the class who was a little “different” and who was having a hard time making any friends. He’d told the teacher that the only kid who was nice to him was our daughter. The joy of hearing that story made me resolve to tell parents as often as I could about something beautiful I saw their child do – there’s no better gift you can give to a mom or dad.

•There were years and years of gifted ed. IEP reviews, as well. Those were always a delight as we got to rejoice with our kids’ teachers about the amazing things they were learning and the special gifts they each possessed. Typically the student sits in on those meetings to provide input about how well they’re being challenged and what projects/avenues of study they’d be interested in pursuing in the coming year. It was just another way for us to show our three how awesome we think they are.
I’ll never forget our very last annual IEP for our youngest. It was his senior year, and he’d already decided to major in vocal music education. The regular ed teacher who attended the meeting (one regular ed person attends every gifted IEP in the high school setting) was his choral conductor and mentor, by her own request. I’d worked with her closely for years in the choral/theater department booster club, so it was all friends around the table. The Boy got to hear her say that it had always been her privilege to work with him, that he was probably the most hard-working, interesting, and musical student she’d ever had. She marveled at his academic talent (4.83 GPA and National Merit Finalist). As a finale for 21 years’ worth of parent/teacher conferences it was unbeatable.

Okay, so maybe I do miss parent/teacher conferences just a bit. At least he ones when we sat on the Parent side of the desk.


2 thoughts on “The parent/teacher conference, from both sides of the desk

  1. Dear Mom Goes On:
    I am currently a frustrated mother in search of help, and I thought with your obvious teaching experience maybe you could shine some light on my current situation. My kindergartener is about to be expelled for aggressive behavior.
    Sincerely – Frustrated Mother


    • Hi, there. Thanks for reading my post. I’m sorry you’re going through a difficult time with your son.

      In answer to your question, I really don’t feel I can be of any help to you, since I don’t know you or your son or anything about your situation. The best advice I can give is to reach out to any resources your school can provide, keep lines of communication open with school personnel, and consult a pediatrician for suggestions on how best to help your son. Best of luck to you.


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