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Parent Teacher Conferences

Tabitha Helms

This was a new experience for me. When I was doing my student teaching, I was in the same room while they were going on. But I was lesson planning with my fellow student teacher from the AM class, so I didn't have much say in them. I remember talking to the parents of one child about how theatre class might help her shyness. But that was it. So, I began piling together a million papers of their students' work based on what the other kindergarten teacher said she'd be giving them. I had my notes on things I wanted to address with the parents. The principal said P-T conferences are a time to make friends with the parents. Ask them how they're doing. Tell them how wonderful their children are doing. Encourage them. I didn't really know how that fit in since I'm not much of a socializer and there were things I'd been wanting to ask different parents about--how certain students focus at home, what their attitudes are like, if the sight word books are too easy for them. There was business to take care of, and I only had 15 minutes to do it.

The morning of the first conferences, my alarm didn't wake me up on time. I only heard it go off once, and it automatically snoozes if I don't turn it off after a minute. I didn't hear it go off again until I woke up 45 minutes later. I flew out of bed and ran out the door. On my way out the door I remembered that I didn't just have conferences in the afternoon, I had some in the morning too. I remembered consciously thinking I didn't want to plan any at 7:30am because that was earlier than I was used to being at school, and my morning is hard enough to finish without an extra rush. I couldn't remember if I was able to make that happen or not though. I'm stuck in school traffic watching the clock turn 7:32am, praying that I didn't have a parent waiting outside my door. I was expecting a phone call from the office any minute. None came, and no one was waiting when I arrived. I did have an appointment at 7:45am however, so I didn't really have time to do my morning prep like I'm used to. That was unfortunate. It caused my whole day to feel behind.

The schedule of P-T conferences threw me off for two days. Having half days and chapel for spiritual emphasis, doing after school prep at 1:20pm instead of 3:30pm made it feel like weird times all day. At 4:00 it felt like 7pm because I had been at school prepping for so long. It was nice having some extra hours to prep things, but my prep time kept getting interrupted with conferences. That caused me to have half finished projects lying all over my classroom for two days. I worked on more projects than my usual ones so I still didn't have enough time in my week to get everything done. My poor frog tank will have to remain scummy for a few more days and I'll have to get to school a little earlier tomorrow to give each student their 5 marbles to start the week and clean the boards before writing my schedule on them. My work is never done! It drives me crazy. I don't want to be a workaholic. What if it's like this forever--not just the first year? How am I supposed to have an outside life? I was challenged in church this morning to not let people be secondary to a busy schedule because people are our purpose. It's hard because I know my friends are secondary right now because I'm focusing on different people--my little people. How do I balance? I'm still figuring that out.

Anyway, the conferences themselves were pretty good. I enjoy most of my parents and enjoy talking with them. But there's always a few...

One dad came and was so quiet it was really awkward. No head nod or "mhm" or anything to the many things I said or asked. Then at the last minute as we stood to leave he said he was being stationed in Florida and would be moving with his child in February. Sadness.

One couple was very concerned about the young age of their child. The kid's writing grade was low because an assignment hadn't been completed. But they were worried that it was because of their child's age. I told them it was hard to know if it was due to age that the writing skills were lacking or if it's just because of the lack of practice and exposure to writing. Only time would tell I said. I asked the other kinder teacher about that later. I said I didn't really know what clues I was looking for to tell me if they were too young to be in kindergarten or might need to repeat it. She said pretty much the same thing as me. It's too early to tell. That made me feel better. These parents also wanted to know about my "Tattletale Monster." They had heard about it at home and figured there was more to the story than what they were hearing. So I explained how it worked. They didn't seem to have any more questions about it.

The next day however, the other kindergarten teacher said she wanted to talk to me because those parents had come to her to ask her opinion of it. Their older child had this other teacher for kindergarten so they knew her already. But they wanted her opinion of if it's too scary or if the concept of tattletaling was too advanced for kindergartners to understand. She told the parents that she didn't really know much about it. I had told her about it, but she wasn't using it. But the parents asked her to talk to me. I was not happy with this confrontation. For one, they didn't ask me any more questions. If their child is scared of it, they should tell me. I'll change my approach. I would have expounded more on how I've heard the kids problem-solving at their tables in class. But to go to another teacher and tell them to talk to me? To ask if she thinks I'm doing a good job? That took a hit to my confidence. I emailed them after I talked with her to try and clarify things and let them know they could always come and talk to me. I haven't heard anything back.

The other conference that was difficult for me was the one with the parent of one of my higher students. This student is reading at a 1st/2nd grade level already and doing addition, which we don't learn till January I don't think. I'm struggling because I've never been exposed to this before. I know high students exist. But I don't know what I'm supposed to do about it. The higher track of sight word books we have to offer are too low for this student. I told the parent I'd be putting the child into our Accelerated Reading Program next week, but I don't know what I'm supposed to grade them on if they're not doing the same work as everyone else. (This grading thing really messes me up. No one ever told me how to do it.) The student's dad seemed cool about everything, but he even told me that it's the kid's mom whose worried about their child being bored. The mom was apparently always bored in school and she doesn't want that for her child. I understand that, but I don't know what I'm supposed to do about it...create a whole new curriculum just for their student? My curriculum does have challenge worksheets included, which I suppose I'll start adding in. But I don't know how I'm supposed to lead the whole class in another worksheet step by step and give directions to this student at the same time. It would be different if the child was self-motivated in class to finish work. But the student isn't. I walk by them one minute and see them staring off into space without a name even on the paper. Five minutes later, the student is still in the same spot. The student hasn't shown me that their able to do thing on their own. How can I be assured that they will do a separate paper independently. I don't know if the spacey-ness is a result of boredom. But regardless of the boredom factor, I need the child to show me they can handle more challenge and independence in that. I have a class full of other students who need to be given direction and helped with simpler concepts. I don't understand how to teach everyone at the same time.

I stewed over these two parents all night on Friday. It took forever to get to sleep. My principal emailed me about it over the weekend and said it's normal for me to feel like I don't know what I'm doing. She said to remember the good that people have said about me. She's heard many good things on her end and she has confidence in my ability. That was nice. But I still don't know what to do...

Just when I began looking forward to a restful, routine, normal week, I realized that I start teaching ASL Club this week. Hopefully I won't lose my mind with these extra things that are constantly a part of my schedule now...