All moms should be divas...this one just happens to be in Jersey!

Friday, November 19, 2010

If I organized parent teacher conferences

Every fall, parents across the country wait to be assigned some mutually inconvenient time for parent and teacher to conference regarding the academic progress (all 8 weeks of it) for each child. Now I'm sure for the parents of the gifted & talented students, there is a certain joy of expectation. For the parents of kids with IEP’s (Individual Education Plans for those not in the know), these autumn-fests are not the highlight of the social calendar. I will admit to a certain "oy vey" feeling in my stomach heading off to hear how my ADHD Son1 likes to shout out in class (MY Son?), talks in class-- a lot (no WAY?!), and needs to work to curb his impulses. (REALLY? Wow- I hadn't noticed he was impulsive, seriously?). I will hear that Son2 has issues transitioning from one task to another (GET OUT) and may, at times, simply close his books, push them to the side and have a good long day dream. That is the inevitable point at which I, year after year, suppress what would be a very poorly-timed giggle and try to rein in my own attention.

I don't mean to diminish in any way what the teachers do with my kids. But they're in 5th and 7th grades now. I want to hear something new. Since that would mean going to some other kid's conference which is frowned upon, I think we need to rethink the way we have parents and teachers meet. How 'bout we just cut the pedantic pleasantries and we cut to the heart of the matter. You would like, in no particular order, for me to enforce with my sons that they need to:

1) Give homework at least a passing glance
2) Stop shouting out every answer, every time, every day
3) Attempt to walk a semi-straight line to transition to class on time
4) Remember books, at least every so often
5) Chain the homework planner to their persons to ensure ready access when it counts, like say, when planning homework.

Ok? We're good to go? Pedantic pleasantries and filial formalities resolved, here's what I think we should be doing. We should be having wine. Yes, I know it's not allowed on school property, but maybe just this once we'll sort that out. What we have here are stilted interviews with parents wanting so badly to hear good news, while conditioned to one teacher after another telling them what the issues are. I can barely get through a holiday dinner without valium so I am well aware that their behaviors can be disruptive in group settings. I'm not being negative. I'm being honest. I'm their mom. I know Son1 & Son2 are scatter-brained, talk a lot, and lose important stuff. No sense wasting tax payer time telling me again. The mood's all wrong. We need to work as partners; we need to break the first marking period ice. We need... to toast.

The wrong mood all started back just a few weeks into the year, with Back to School Night. I know you need to run down the budget crisis, the NJ ASK (or whatever standardized state test du jour you respectively have), and shock and awe us with your enthusiasm for our kids. But I'm a middle school parent, and looking around the not so crowded gym, I'd say the bloom is off the rose in the parent interest level by middle school. Our kids don't leave us cute pictures on their desks and nice letters to Mommy. The novelty of sitting in their little desks is gone. The "fun" has passed. Hell, Son1 won't even tell me his locker# and combo for fear of snooping. But yes, parents should be more engaged in the education. I whole heartedly agree when I hear that. So draw us back in, with wine.

Trust me, if you uncork it- they will come. If I ran back to school nights, they would have been open house style cocktail parties to kick off the year ahead, rather than stilted, marginally attended PowerPoint displays that the teachers clearly put a lot of work in to for no where near the parent showing that they should get. We could have had punch in Phys-Ed, Oktoberfest in Social Studies (it's kind of cultural), and studied fermentation in Science. A little intro by the 6th grade Jazz band would have been nice. Can ya dig it? I knew thatcha would.

If I ran Parent-Teacher conferences, they would be very intimate little tête-à-têtes. We'd discuss test scores over brie. Perhaps some crostini would be shared as you encouraged me and I encouraged you. As these are small gatherings, one more one on one, I'd suggest we serve by the glass. Those little airline bottles may be ideal too. Ooooh I know! Set up a mini bar in the corner. While I cracked it open for some Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies that seem to invade all mini-bars, I'd grab a Chivas or two. By mini-bar rates that would be about $52. Doesn't seem so hard to raise the moolah to send the 8th grade to Washington DC now, does it? Think about it.

These are just my humble suggestions, for you to find some ways to build parent interest during these tween years when our own kids drive us to drink. I may submit this to the Superintendent. It's too late for this year, but maybe they could take some action for next year. I wish I thought of this sooner. This afternoon, we have Son1's Social Studies, Science, and Math teachers all in a 45 minute span. Without advance warning, they'd probably think it a little odd if I showed up with a baguette and Bordeaux. Ah well, it’s their loss.



  1. Wine at parent teacher conferences with a minibar and some finger food, right up my ally! If this was the case, I wouldn't dread the teen years to come. Send that letter quick, maybe it will catch on nationwide.

  2. I have a ton of friends who are teachers and who hate parent-teacher conferences for the very reason that its so hard to come up with interesting and unique things to say to each parent about their child. They feel your pain too.

    I know that they would LOVE the idea of having wine available...although knowing some of my friends I may feel bad for whichever parents they see could get messy.

    Here from FF on BF!

  3. Next year is our first official foray into all things school. I know we have a lot to learn, and we are still years away from things like locker combinations!

  4. I think anytime you add wine and appetizers to an already stressful event, you've got a good thing. Hell, that's how I get through my family get-togethers!

  5. Ahhh yes conferences.
    First I'm from NJ... hi :) but moved 9 years ago.
    I am totally there with you, same story each conference. I now handle them differently, I don't so much care what they had in store for me to hear (not much kids are same grades as your) I now go in with questions I've rehearsed with a friend who is a veteran amazingly great teacher. Q1 What are you doing to make sure my child stays on task...gets them every time. Q2 If they do not seem interested in the lesson, how do you plan to teach it to them in a more interesting way. The school district told me it's your job to teach my children even when it's not easy.
    I love the idea of brie at the meetings. I LOVE Brie!
    When the teacher got annoyed with me this year, I went directly to the principals office and he called her right in and fixed it so that she will be making sure my son completes his class assignments in a more timely manner or at least making my aware that there is a problem, before just tossing up their hands and acting annoyed that teaching is the job they chose and hopefully they didn't expect every child to get it on the moment something is mentioned :) My kids started school 13 weeks ago-I sure with it was only 8 :)
    Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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  7. You brought back memories. Teacher conferences can be a dreaded event. I worked at an Elementary school for many years. Here's what stuck in my mind. Teachers need to know they appreciated and we as parents know it's not an easy job, especially with school systems designed to teach children to test instead of to think. I always stayed very involved with both my boys schooling. The teachers knew me very well so by the time conferences came along it was pretty much review. They can't surprise ya with info you are already aware of. Make sure your children's teachers know how involved you are. You check backpacks daily, go over homework, write assignments due on your calendar, etc. Let them know you are a hands on parent and you consider it team work. I also recommend having a parent appreciation lunch sponsored by the parents every year. I know some schools do this late in the year but why not twice a year? Preferably before conferences begin. lol Good luck parents! Before you know it your kids will be grown.

  8. The interesting thing for me is how different each conference is for each of my kids. I've got one with an IEP, one who is gifted, and one who is very smart but hates school and doesn't apply himself to his full potential. Ah, wine. It makes everything sparkly and fun, huh?

  9. If you did this I bet parent attendence would be up. Id go and I don't have kids. Im all about free booze.

    I'm typing from my phone...don't judge me lol.

  10. I want you to open a school and I want to send my kid to it just for you kind of conferences. LOL!
    We have our very first one of these tomorrow night. Since the teacher and I have already been communicating about some issues E was having earlier in the year, I'm kind of bracing myself. When we last spoke she did say she was seeing progress from him. But still, I may have to slip a flask into my coat so I can do a shot before heading into the school.

  11. As a high school teacher in a past life (ie before my own kids), I can think of many parent-techer interviews that would have been better with wine! And brie! Perhaps I'll BYO to my kids' interviews...

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  13. I'm a teacher...and let me tell you...I wish you ran the parent-teacher nights, too!

    I all seriousness, I agree that the whole thing is flawed. Personally, I think the evening would be a hell of a lot more productive if we (the teachers) started out by asking you (the parents) to tell us a little bit about little johnny.

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