Teaching and learning can be all-consuming. It’s a team sport for sure!
This year is no different from previous years at my school nor from any other school. The demands of teaching and learning are multi-layered for all involved. The upheaval in schedules takes time to adjust to and inevitably, by about week three, we settle into our groove only to be interrupted by illness, assemblies, fire drills, school pictures or something unexpected. But that’s part of the game – managing the exceptions. By the end of September, family life may start to hit its stride as routines stabilize, or the reality of intense schedules maybe be wearing people down.
As we approach the six-week mark, our getting-to-know-you activities and assessments are done (for this round), work habits have been practiced, and perhaps quizzes and tests have been completed. Teachers are seeing work and relationships develop patterns and ways to nurture each child to acquire knowledge, ask questions and build social skills. Parents are figuring out what their roles are as homework coaches and bedtime managers.
Mid-October means a chance to connect with families to share observations, identify strengths and growing edges and develop specific ways schools and families work as a team to support students. The timing of these fall parent teacher conferences mindfully serves as a time to pause and reflect on what’s transpired, what lies ahead and to work on build the team that supports each student. More importantly, it’s a time to celebrate the individual strengths and gifts of each learner and for the adults to share perspectives, observations and knowledge which will support students all year-long.
While it might seem obvious, both parents and teachers each bring knowledge and observations about children to the conference table, it may not feel so democratic or equitable. It’s essential that we listen to each other, without rushing in our minds (or even out of our mouths) the important points we need to say. Carol Davis does a fine job expressing “What Parents Wish Teachers Knew” as she speaks both a parent and a teacher. Talking about difficult topics and behaviors can be even more daunting than just a touch-base kind of conference. Margaret Wilson Berry shares strategies for tackling those prickly conversations in “Ever Feel Misunderstood?” I shared my own thoughts a while back in the post “6 Things Parents and Teachers Need to Remember About Parent Teacher Conferences.”
The bottom line is that all children are strong, capable and able to learn. The challenge is for each of the adults to observe and listen to the child to determine how best to move them along the path of learning and growth. That’s a mighty complex job that requires exquisitely coordinated team work from teachers, administrators, and parents. This year, why not commit to your team do it’s best to support each student?
What’s your experience with parent conferences? How do you communicate with your child’s teacher or with your students’ families? I hope you’ll take a minute to share in the comments section.