6 Reasons to Love Parent Teacher Conferences: Slice of Life #sol21 11/31

  1. Cameras! When a parent is with them, the camera is on. I saw some of my students’ faces for the very first time. I have gotten used to teaching with only my own face to animate the screen, but what a different experience to be able to look at someone else rather than look into the Zoom mirror. Five hours on Zoom staring at myself is tiring. Five hours on Zoom engaging with other people is energizing!
  2. Voices! Microphones were unmuted. My students HAVE VOICES! AND TEETH! THEY SMILE! It was amazing. I will say that relying on the Zoom chat (and email and text) to communicate means that my students literally write all day long, and as a writing teacher, I don’t mind that. But how quick and convenient to have a conversation through voice rather than fingertips typing on keys.
  3. Glows! When I first taught high school a long time ago, I remember a student racing to my room ahead of his mom during parent-teacher conferences. “Miss E, I need you to brag me up because my moms just heard a lot of bad news.” I never want a student to leave a conference feeling like they heard bad news about themselves. It’s my job to see and name their brilliance. And naming their brilliance has the most extraordinary effect, because it usually begins to emerge and grow.
  4. Reframes! At the same time, I need to be honest about concerns. Reframes are a way to tell the truth but tell it better. One of my students exemplified this so beautifully yesterday. He has only turned in one assignment this quarter, and I wasn’t sure what positive direction the conference could go. But I started by asking him what he feels like he’s doing well right now and this is what he said: “I feel really good because I asked you for all my work this week.” And a conference that might have taken a turn toward deficits was magically righted. Yes you did! You’ve got all your assignments now! You know just what you need to do! Look at that initiative! Look at that commitment to growth and improvement! Look at that realizing what you need and asking for it! Rather than focusing the conference on what he hasn’t done so far, we could focus on what he’s going to do going forward.
  5. Dynamics! My students are 17 and 18 years old, nearly grown, and it seems important to them that I see them as almost adults. But with their parents they are always a child, and I love seeing the family dynamics at play–the eye rolls and the sass, the affectionate shoulder bumps and laughter. I also feel so inspired seeing parents’ hopes and dreams for their children and hearing the encouragement and words of wisdom they share. I think every parent said some version of “As I always tell her… [insert encouragement and words of wisdom here]”–accompanied by their child’s eye rolls or head nods or both.
  6. Assignments! Monday and Tuesday were a frenzy of submitted assignments as students prepared for parent-teacher conferences. We only have conferences twice a year, but maybe we should have them every quarter because they’re surprisingly motivating. In the third quarter of a very long year of Zoom school, I don’t mind the energy of “I’ve gotta get my grade up rightthisminute.” Of course the focus on grades and missing work and the absurdity of a student’s 12.75% in class (where does a number like that even come from??) makes me reflect on all the ways school isn’t working to promote learning. Points accumulation, yes. Learning, not so much. But those are concerns for another day.

14 thoughts on “6 Reasons to Love Parent Teacher Conferences: Slice of Life #sol21 11/31

  1. This is very motivating to me. I have conferences coming up, and I really don’t always look forward to them, but “reframing” and “assignments” are exciting prospects. Impressed that you have parent conferences with 17 and 18-year-olds. It’s only an elementary thing herre.

  2. As a new teacher I was first very scared of the thought of parent teacher conferences. Yet, with all the prep and planning they require, it is so nice to speak to parents about what their students are doing in school . I’ve also used each trimester end as a time to have my students set goals for themselves for the next one. I’m amazed at how every element of being a teacher includes another opportunity to grow, right along with my students.

  3. What a list! This is so great…I’m really glad that it was such a positive experience for you and your students. Do you feel that you had more parents involved since it was virtual?

  4. So very glad this was a boost for everyone! I love the reframes. It is so true that one bright start can turn anything around. Thanks for giving me that today with this positive post. (I want some CONFERENCES!)

  5. I love all six reasons, but I especially love #3. Glows! Great for the student, great for the parent, and great for you!!

  6. You are the best human. I loved reading this list. Oh the strangeness of Covid times but oh the beautiful of relationships which is what you showcased here so wonderfully!

  7. Thanks for the positives. We have conferences tonight and next Tuesday. I’m also feeling the “rightthisminute” vibe from students, and it can feel overwhelming. Like, I feel behind because I have so many late things to read now.

  8. So love the positive spin. Why focus on the negative? We all know it’s there. This year sucks! But yay for you to find a silver lining.

  9. Parent conferences always seem to give us an insight into our students that we don’t always get by having them in our classes. I really like your idea of “reframing”. It is so easy to dwell on deficits that we sometimes forget that there are positives in that student who might need a bit of guidance.

  10. My favorite from your list is #3 – Glows! “It’s my job to see and name their brilliance.” Somehow, I thought you were teaching middle school, my personal favorite, so i was surprised to see you’re with the big kids. They need someone who loves them, too. They are so lucky to have you in their corner.

  11. I like that you conference with the student and their parents. I don’t see why it shouldn’t be a family affair even when they’re nearly grown. I can see that you learn a lot about your families from their dynamics. I couldn’t agree more, it’s always so telling. Also, thank you for using the word sass!

  12. Parent-Teacher Conferences are next week for me. I loved how you framed this… I need this positive outlook going into conferences.

  13. This is so wonderful! It gives me hope for the next generation that there are teachers like you working to shape them into smart, untroubled adults. I particularly love your point about reframes. Thanks for the great post!

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