My best and oldest friend is a computer systems analyst. I don’t really know what that is, but I’m certainly impressed. We tend to be in awe of people who have fancy titles and jobs so technical or obscure that we we assume they have command of a vast body of knowledge completely unknown to us. They enjoy immediate respect from people unfamiliar with their work.
As teachers, it is our lot that we are in the only profession that is familiar to virtually everyone. Each parent has, as a child, spent thousands of hours watching his or her teachers do the very thing we do. And, they were watching at a time in their lives when they were least able to appreciate the complexity and subtlety of our skills.
To make matters worse, schools and teachers are criticized for not correcting or even causing many social ills. Much has been made of how poorly American students do when compared to those of other countries. Whether or not the blame should be on the teacher alone or directed elsewhere is another matter. The point is that your first task during a parent-teacher conference is to impress them with your competence and high level of professionalism.
In truth, nearly all parents are on your side. They have come to see you only to say hello and to assure you that they are caring and concerned. Ninety percent of your conferences will be pleasant and satisfying, since they will be with the parents of well behaved and successful students. Unfortunately, you will rarely see those parents whose children have genuine problems, either academic or behavioral. There seems to be a rapid drop off of parent-teacher conferences from the elementary to middle school or junior high years. Possibly, this is due to the perception of parents (not without foundation) that they are becoming less able to affect or control their child’s behavior. Or, it might be that parents of kids with problems have had one too many unpleasant conferences and just don’t want to repeat the experience. Whatever the reason, it’s a general rule that you will see the parents you don’t need to and hardly ever ever see those you do.
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