The Parent Teacher Conference

Am I the only one who feels like I’m being graded when it comes time for the dreaded parent teacher conference? In a way, I guess we are. You are your child’s first teacher. So, why then, do a lot of us parents come back from these conferences so frustrated?

My 3rd grader and kindergartener both had their parent teacher conferences tonight. My daughter’s was first. She played outside with her brother while her teacher told us about her comprehension and spelling issues. She’s in speech therapy, so this wasn’t much of a surprise. We’ve known she doesn’t hear the words the way we do. That means she has troubled recreating those same sounds. That means she has trouble spelling. And when you’re spending a lot of time trying to spell, you tend to miss the point. Her teacher said she shines in math but struggles a bit in handwriting. (Just like her mama.) And, as in every parent teacher conference we’ve ever been to for our 3rd grader, the teacher commented on what a joy she is in class and how eager she is to please. This last bit is somewhat problematic, however. You have a child who craves praise, Lisa Simpson style “Someone please grade me!” and this same child is struggling to keep up. I’ve seen this and written about this before. Remember the post about her cheating on her spelling test solely because she was afraid to fail? Her teacher gave us some ideas on how we can help at home, when it comes to the comprehension stuff. But overall, she said, she really needs to learn to focus more. Good luck with that one, Baby Girl. Lack of focus is why I got into broadcast journalism.

My son’s conference also went well. They said he has a little engineer’s brain. He’s constantly building things, explaining his designs to the class and then leaving the projects to dry around the room. The teachers talked about how our kids seem to have accents. One would think they were from Boston or New York, not Alaska. (Quick side note: when I was in college in the midwest, people told me I had an “exotic” accent. Really? Exotic? Interesting.)

When we were getting ready to leave, my son’s teachers spotted my daughter’s report card in my hand. It had scribbles on the back.

The teacher asks me, “Oh, did your daughter take notes for you?”

After a quick moment of embarrassment, I replied, “Nope. That’s my crappy handwriting. Now you see why she’s got an ‘N’ in penmanship!”

I guess the frustration I mentioned is over a feeling of helplessness on my part. I’ve seen other mom friends posting about this on Facebook this week, too. How do you instill in your children pride in their work? A desire to do well? Follow through? My children take pride in their work… most of the time. But, there are times when they could care less about an assignment. I want to rail on about the hazards of half-ass work. I can feel my old Marine ROTC instructor in the back of my brain shouting “Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance!” At the third grade and kindergarten level, what can you say to help? And, at what point do you accept that this child, this blessing, is not you and never will be?

Okay. That got a little deeper than I intended. I am curious, however, how your conferences are going. Having sat on both sides of that tiny desk (I taught high school for a year) I can tell you, there’s no perfect student and there’s no easy way to tell a parent their child is struggling. So, class… your assignment: spill the beans about your child’s conferences.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 01:09:09

    I’m also always on both sides of the table. So far this year the parenting side has gone well. My kids are rockstars when it comes to school (then again when they go from a strict private school to a mediocre public school that’s what happens.) The other side was frustrating this year. No matter how delicately put, or how much I praised the things their kids excelled at, I felt like the parents were combative when given the deal on what their kids needed to work on. Sheesh…it’s PreK! If these people can’t handle hearing that their kids need to practice with scissors a bit more (I had parents tell me they hid ALL writing and cutting implements permanantly from their kids) what are they going to do when their kids get to algebra in highschool?!? Sorry, just venting! Seriously, some of these kids didn’t know what to do with a pair of scissors until I showed them, but I am one teacher with 14 students. A little help from mom and dad would be awesome!
    You are a great mom, and I would love to have conferences with you! I was thinking how much I miss our times of chatting while you would come nurse on your lunch break. I miss those days.


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