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15 Aug 2015

End Parent Conferences

End Parent Conferences

Are teacher conferences obsolete?  Given the advent of teacher webpages, messaging and the proliferation of Student Information Systems and Learning Management Systems- shouldn’t we end parent conferences as we know them?

I had the privilege to attend high school parent teacher conferences for both of my children in two different states.  I also lead conferences as a high school teacher many years ago before we had SIS and LMS systems.

I attend parent teacher conferences out of tradition and obligation- not because I hear anything unique to my kids in the 3 minute/teacher slot I have.  By the time my son  was a senior I predict with 95% certainty what each teacher was going to say.  They all also read off my kid’s grades all of which I already had access to simply by logging into PowerSchool.  So why was I there?

My suggestion is to stop hosting these events.  Rather, every teacher should be able to individually connect with each parent at least once per semester.  This connection should not be a recitation of the grades which the parent already has access to.  The teacher should provide information and feedback on how the child is connecting the concepts taught in class with their concept of the world around them.  Schools have pulled off a ruse for so long that grades define the status of the student.  My kid could get an A yet be very disengaged and just go through the motions.  I get the argument, “I have 125 students” a day as I was one of you.   Yep, and at what point in the history of parent-teacher conferences did we define the “parent” role as show up for 3 minutes and be passive?  I know most teachers mean well and do the best with the structure they are provided.  I am also encouraged by the increase in mass distribution emails about classroom updates I receive from my daughter’s teachers.  I am still waiting for the time when I get those personalized emails that indicate the teacher knows my child as a learner.  I have hope- she has 3 more years of high school.

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