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Monday, December 02, 2013

Reflecting on Parent-Teacher Conferences

Being on the other side of the table for parent-teacher conferences is strange. I have had the opportunity to sit in on parent-teacher conferences during student teaching, but they were for a Grade 6 General Classroom and Grade 9-12 Band and Choir. My grade 7 - 11 general music interviews are a bit different than the ones I observed, and since I'm at a private international school, things are even more different.


Organization


I am the person who organizes to the extreme. I had trouble sleeping the night before parent-teacher conferences because I was trying to figure out the best way to arrange my room for the interviews. I was also wondering how I was going to back-up and support my grades, if parents asked and/or demanded. I have all of the students' grades  written down in my grade book - both on the computer and in a hard copy, but I wasn't sure whether parents would want to see a more detailed mark. I also didn't want to show parents their child's grades in my mark book because they would then be able to see other grades around their student's marks. I came up with what I considered a very creative and easy approach to showing parents the exact break-down of marks. I need to come up with a term for my solution, and I'll complete another post on it at a later time! 


My organization station - grade 9 music projects on display in the back

Logistics


Being in a private international school, a lot of the logistical work was done for me. For example, my schedule was created and given to me - I didn't have to do anything with my schedule except to block off a few times for breaks. All of the secondary interviews were scheduled for 10 minutes in length. Parents signed up for interviews times through Synergetic, our all-encompassing attendence/markbook/student maitenance/parent-teacher conference tool. I like Synergetic, but I don't think it's the most user-friendly program. Regardless, my schedule was created, I received a copy in my mailbox, and a copy was taped to my door. I was ready to go! 

The First Conferences


The first day of interviews was a half-day of school for students, and our interviews occured from 1:00 - 6:00 pm. As it turned out, the two conferences about which I was most nervous occured at the very beginning of the first day of interviews. Although I was nervous, I think I was able to make meaningful progress with both sets of parents. 

Looking back, the whole day was a blur. I talked to several sets of parents and a few students who attended as well. I did have a few blank spots in my interview schedule and so I often found myself sitting at my conference table, playing on my iPad, waiting for the next set of parents. Parents were also often late as they had to walk all the way over to my building (the joys of the Multi-Purpose Hall!).  

I think that I was able to communicate with the parents quite well, although there were a few times I wish I had been more declamatory with my statements. For example, "Johnny must more attention in class" instead of "Johnny should pay attention in class". I feel as though the comments might have "stuck" a bit more if I was a bit more assertive with my suggestions for student improvement. I will work on this balance next time - combining assertiveness with politeness.

Age and Respect


In general, I felt as though most of the parents respected me as an adult and a teacher. There were a few awkward moments while shaking hands, etc., but in general, I was really happy with how the parents treated me. No one came to the conference overly angry, and I feel as though I was able to explain to the confused parents how and why their student got their mark. A few parents, however, were slightly more difficult to deal with. One parent in particular seemed fairly distraught to find out that her son's music class lasted all year, rather than only one semester. Another parent was surprised that our school doesn't have a class on learning how to play the drum set. Can you imagine the logistics in that...? 

My final interview of the day, however, was a bit of a strange situation. The mom originally looked into my room and left, thinking I was a student. She eventually made her way into my room and we began the interview. I was just beginning to speak about her son when she interrupted me, asking "How old are you?! 22? 23?" I was taken aback, and answered "23". I didn't know what else to say. A line such as "I would prefer not to disclose my age" seemed out-of-place and would have made the situation even more awkward. I tried to move the interview along, but she still continued to look at me in a funny way for the rest of the interview.


I left school that day feeling exhausted, yet proud of myself. There have been several moments this year where I have thought, "Wow. I'm actually a real teacher", and this was one of them. I was ready for my next half-day of conferences - scheduled from 8:00 am - noon, and then I was flying off to Luxor, Egypt for the long weekend!

However, the second day of conferences did not happen as planned. Stay tuned to find out why!

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