Parent teacher conferences were last night. I must confess at the begining of the blessed event, I was less than excited. This is a tough group of kids, and I was not sure what to expect from meeting with parents. Sure, I have talked with many on the phone, had a few face to face meetings, so I guess I did have some expectations.
Outside the fact it was an incredibly long day, I was pleased with the outcome. Many of my struggling students had parents that came. We had some wonderful, productive conversations!
The most amazing part of the day however, was an observation on my part though. As wiht most schools, I have a large number of students whose parents are divorced. The first set of these, the father visited with me first, never mentioning that his wife was sitting waiting to speak to me next. He did have a few negative comments about how he was never quite sure what type of structure was in place for homework or nightly reading when his son is with mom. His tone made is obvious he felt his wife was inadequate in his supervision of both their son's behavior and academic progress. When he moved on, the woman who followed him introduced herself as A's mom, and made a sharp tongued comment about me having met her husband, and proceeded to praise her son, acknowledging his successes. She made a few subtle jabs at dad, and moved on.
The next set of divorced parents I noticed, the dad again was the first to visit with me. He told me mom would be there soon but since he is also himself a teacher, he needed to get to his own conferences. He was polite, never giving any negative comments about mom, and even pointedly left the progress report for her to pick up. Meeting with mom shortly after, was pleasant as well. We discussed their son, and ho sending him to dad's classroom might be a productive option when the son comes unprepared for class. All in all, this conversation was positive as well.
The most amazing non-traditional family came in a herd to my table. There were 4 adults, and 2 small children. (the young man being discussed is out of school suspended) WOW! What a wonderful support network for this young man. Had I not known the mom previously, I would never have been able to determine which were the biological parents and which were the step parents. Each of the 4 adults had positive comments about the boy, concerns to ask about, suggestions on how we could help him experience more success. It was the MOST amazing conference I have ever been a part of!
As I reflect back on these particular three conferences, I wonder why parents have such a difficult time realizing how their interactions, or lack thereof, impac their children. Why can't they be more like the last group, working towards a common goal for their child.
Conferences are conferences... leaving me with a to-do list for the next day, a stack of "I found it in my backpack" papers to correct, and a new sense of appreciation of my students.