The other day we had a regular parent-teacher conference at our school. Normally, the collective session lasts about 30 minutes – parents sitting in one room listening to the homeroom teacher. After that, parents usually go and talk to teachers of other subjects individually. They ask about the grades and behavior of their children.
Although these meetings are very important, nothing epoch-making really happens. However, last time was different. The collective session took two hours because the parents wanted to get things off their chest. When I think about it now, I’d say they must have trusted me completely at that moment because what they were saying took a lot of courage. It was clear that the things they were sharing on the spot had probably been on their mind for long.
Unfortunately, there was not much I could do to help them directly. The only thing I could do was to listen to them. Some of the opinions expressed resonated with me, others didn’t. However, I chose not to oppose too much. I don’t think it’s not my job anyway. My job is to listen patiently and help if it’s in my power. The parents sometimes started with “What do you think about this…….”. I felt that the aim of the question was not to find out what I think. The main aim was to air their views.
There were a couple of things I realized during the session. For one, parents may be afraid to express their opinions because they think their child might get into trouble. It’s hardly conceivable, but they believe that if they honestly say what’s on their mind, some kind of revenge will happen (the teacher will have it in for the kid from now on).
For two, each parent has a different view on education. For example, some think project-based lessons are a waste of time while others think they are a great way to learn things and connect with peers and friends of all ages.
Some parents think the teacher’s job is to teach the kids. Thus, nothing that has not been taught/mentioned in the lesson should later be tested. In other words, the teacher can’t test what’s not in the book or in the student’s notebook.
Some parents are convinced that kids should not be forced to learn millions of facts. Instead, they should be able to find the information they need to solve a problem. Others believe their kids had better learn the serious stuff (read: facts) and ‘play’ after school.
However, what surprised me most was that many parents are convinced that “teachers are stressed and over-worked”. How do they know? Are we all like that? Do they see us this way?
Anyway, whatever I believe, my job is to listen to what the parents have to say. It may come in handy after all, especially when dealing with problematic students. For example, some of my students are content with rather average scores, but as their teacher, I know that they could do better if they tried. So I talk to their parents only to discover that they themselves don’t regard grades, scores and the student’s overall performance terribly important. In other words, the student and the parents are on the same wavelength on this. This is probably because the family’s priorities differ from the priorities of the system, which, I suppose, is perfectly fine, but it just makes my job tough at times.
On the other hand, there are parents who cooperate closely with all the teachers and thus the kid knows that we are not enemies but allies. It’s a pretty straightforward logic; if the loving parents’ objectives are the same as the teacher’s ones, then, inevitably, the teacher must be a loving creature, too. And this realization, I believe, is a win-win situation for all parties involved.