Parent-teacher conferences remain a vivid memory from my childhood.
I tagged along with my parents to Cleo Gordon Elementary School in Fairfield, showed my dad around the classroom while my mom talked to the teacher about my grades, behavior and attitude. I kept one ear on the conversation, though, and every year it was exactly the same.
“Angela is a joy to have in class.” “I wish all my students were like Angela.” “But she talks a little too much.”
Story of my life. Despite the annual feedback about my being a chatty Cathy, I always looked forward to parent-teacher conferences. It was fun showing my parents my desk, the projects I worked on at school and having them meet my teacher. I liked that my parents cared and were involved with my education.
Since attending my first parent-teacher conference as the parent three years ago, I’ve looked forward to every single one. A friend suggested that I look forward to them because they’ve always gone well. While it’s true that a teacher has never had a bad thing to say about my oldest child, I don’t think that’s why I look forward to them.
My kid is in school for a majority of the day and I want to know how she’s behaving, what she’s doing well, where she needs improvement and most importantly, are we doing what we need to do at home to get her ready for the next grade level?
When the day of the conference arrives, I don’t want to come off as eager as I am so I don’t arrive 15 minutes early like I do for every other appointment in my life. I hide my notebook full of questions for the teacher deep in my purse and I try my hardest not to run into the school.
I walk into the classroom and play it cool. I greet the teacher calmly and sit down.
“She is doing so great.” “She is so wonderful to have in class.” “She is so excited to learn and loves school.” “She talks a little too much so I’ve had to move the class around a couple of times.”
I am beaming. Teachers don’t tell you in an email all the great things they think about your child. They wait until you are one-on-one. Once I feel comfortable that the teacher won’t judge me once she sees my notebook full of questions, I pull it out of my purse and give her the warning. She says she’s OK with questions and I proceed.
Of course, to her, the concerns that my husband and I have are silly. But we are normal parents, this is our first child and we want our daughter to succeed.
Since each family is allotted only 15 minutes for their parent-teacher conference and my daughter’s teacher is very efficient, she gets me out of there in 15 minutes flat. I try to make small talk, but she’s practically chasing me out of the door to keep her schedule. I have to admire and respect her punctuality.
I thank the teacher for her time and head back to work – smiling from ear to ear. Sure, my daughter is doing fine in school, but more than anything, I enjoy the interaction with the teachers. I want to hear from the people she’s around all day how she is doing and get their tips on what we can do at home to help her in areas where she needs a little extra improvement.
I don’t know if every parent takes advantage of the opportunity to speak with their child’s teacher, but they should. It’s 15 minutes out of the day and most schools will accommodate parents’ busy schedules. Kids are our futures and we need to put as much effort into their education as we do into their extracurricular activities. I know as well as the next parent that we put a lot into their extracurriculars.
Angela Borchert is a freelance writer who lives in Vacaville. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.