Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What should we discuss at parent-teacher conferences? October 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:19 AM
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AFTER THREE KIDS and 20 years of attending parent-teacher conferences, I realized Monday evening that my husband and I are in the home-stretch. We have only three more conference sessions before our son, our youngest, graduates from high school in 2012. Yeah.

It’s not that I dislike conferences. It’s just that I feel such meetings are not always as productive as they could, should, be. Our kids have done well in school, so grades have not been an issue. We are thankful for that. Teachers have always offered high praise for our children. We are thankful for that. Our kids have always been respectful and well-behaved. We are thankful for that too.

But that leaves us with a bit of a dilemma. What do we discuss at conferences?

At Monday’s sessions, I decided to focus more on our son’s future, asking about his passion for subjects, trying to get a feel for possible career choices. He’s already decided on a career in computers. But, as parents know, young adults are apt to change their minds more than once before settling on a specific career path.

Based on the input teachers gave me, my boy could succeed in many areas. He’s gifted in math and science. I already knew that. Sometimes, though, it’s reaffirming to hear from others.

I also inquired about advanced placement classes and testing. Such opportunities never existed when I attended high school, meaning I’m uninformed. If all goes as planned, my son should have college credits on his transcript when he graduates from high school.

And, yes, our conferences did include discussion about his grades, current classes and participation. I often ask teachers, too, what they are teaching because my teen certainly doesn’t inform me.

My spouse even suggested that one teacher enlighten his students by taking them on a field trip to the next-door college. He made the same suggestion to the same instructor two years ago. The educator seemed non-committal and, as we walked away, we wondered why he didn’t enthusiastically embrace an idea that seemed so clearly beneficial to students.

That all leads me to wonder, what do teachers expect from conferences?

What don’t they want to hear? A retired elementary school teacher recently told my husband that he didn’t like the accusatory “It’s your fault” words delivered by parents seeking to affix blame. In his later years of teaching, parents were becoming less respectful and more accusatory, he said.

So that leaves this whole topic open for discussion. If you’re an educator, what would you like parents to ask you at conferences? What do you want to talk about? What would you really, truly, like to tell parents?

If you’re a parent, what do you expect teachers to share with you? What would you really, honestly, like to ask them, or tell them?

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling