More than 2.5 million children in elementary schools across Texas have one thing in common this time of year: They have teachers who need to meet with their parents or guardians about their successes, challenges and progress at school.
In some school communities, parents think it is “mandatory” to visit with the teacher during parent-teacher conference time. There is no law in Texas making it legally mandatory, but many parents are eager to learn about how their children are doing, especially since they cannot be a fly on the wall, as some would wish.
But, as they prepare to walk into the school, a sort of anxiety or fear overcomes them. I have felt it, and I am a parent of three and a former elementary teacher. What will the teacher say? Will he ask a hard question of me? Will he think I’ve done a good job? Will she notice the same things I have or will there be a whole new set of goals for me to handle at home? This natural anxiety does not keep these parents away.
However, that scenario is not always the case.
Some parents, for a variety of reasons, do not take advantage of the parent-teacher conference. I once had a parent of a child in my class who told me, after several unsuccessful struggles to get him to come in, and finally one successful attempt, that he did not plan to sit down to hear all the bad things about his daughter. With a smile I assured him that my agenda did not include that.
Another time, I had a parent who had a tough upbringing, and lingering memories of her negative experiences at school are what kept her away.
For parents such as these who either are disinclined to come or don’t have the time to make it to their child’s parent-teacher conference, there are other things they ought to be doing.
Consider writing an email to the teacher to let him know that you are not able to make it in, but that you would like to learn about the progress of your child regarding something you noticed on the report card.
You can also arrange a phone conference just as a teacher might do when she needs to talk with you about your child’s day to discuss what would have been shared in the parent-teacher conference. If you have received standardized test scores that you would like to learn more about, request that the teacher, or even the school counselor, give you a call.
Be sure to look through your child’s returned homework, projects, or tests in order to ask informed questions of the teacher. Conversations should never be confrontational. Keep a positive tone and an open mind to learn the most about your child’s school progress, whether it is in person or through other means of communication.
Before any planned conversation, ask children if they have a question to ask the teacher. No matter how big or small the question might be, a child’s voice is just as important as your voice when building relationships for classroom success.
Jot down a couple of questions and characteristics of your child that you would like to share with the teacher or listen for as she speaks. You may be answering her unasked questions from these inquiries and comments that you can offer.
It is imperative to visit with your child’s teacher. Although not mandatory, your consistent involvement in parent-teacher communication will set up your child for success at school, now and in the future.
It really doesn’t matter what month it is. Teachers and parents must connect in some way. Parents and guardians are their children’s most important figure in ensuring their well-being and always their children’s best advocate.
Sheri Mycue is a clinical assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin.
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— Texas Perspectives (@TexPerspectives) November 6, 2014