Wasting my time, again

You might have noticed that I haven’t been complaining much about my kids’ school this year. We’re still at the same (high quality) public school, but both kids got very good teachers this year, which makes an enormous difference. The curriculum is still stupid, but that’s not the teachers’ fault. Within the confines of that curriculum, they’re doing an excellent job making sure the kids are mastering skills. Hurrah!

A little of the bloom went of the rose yesterday, though, when I learned that, at today’s parent teacher conference, my children are expected to attend. In other words, rather than being a real parent teacher conference, where there can be an honest give and take about the child, it’s going to be a dog and pony show where the teacher makes sure nothing negative can be said as she runs the child through predetermined paces in my presence.

My jaded attitude about this isn’t just guess work. At my children’s old school they had already instituted the parent/teacher/child conference, and I can tell you that it was a complete waste of time. The only reason I put up with it was that I had regular communications with the teachers the rest of the time, and wouldn’t actually have learned anything new from a standard parent/teacher conference that I didn’t already know. Here, of course, because of the impersonal nature of public school, this is my only chance to get a handle on the issues.

Most of the parents I know are displeased about this situation because they’ve also figured out that this gives the teachers a free ride to avoid difficult issues. In addition, most of them have already made plans, as I have, to set up another conference — this one on the teachers’ time, of course — to have the necessary conversation without the child present. Perhaps, after having to have at least 20 extra conferences, during their own time, the teachers will stop this abysmally stupid time waster.

UPDATE:  Well, the conferences have come and gone.  Both teachers demonstrated that they know my children well, and that they are good teachers.  The conferences took at least 10 minutes longer than they should have, though, as we struggled tactfully to articulate matters that could have been stated in a sentence or two had the children not attended.  So, the same material got covered, but inefficiently.  I’m grateful that I won’t have to go back, and I’m grateful that I happen to be a very good at expressing obliquely what many could express only directly.  I would be even more grateful if we hadn’t done it this way.


8 Responses

  1. Are the teachers behind this? Or is it the administration? Seems wacky. Must be an elementary school thing.

    I taught in middle and high school, (where most parents didn’t bother to show up), and often it was helpful to have the child there to sort out those he said/she said issues. More of an older kid thing, I suppose. But we would then send the kid out of the room when it became necessary. We certainly never required a parent to bring a child. Usually the parent wanted to bring the child to make them take responsibility for their actions, learning, and the solution to the problem.

    Example conversation:
    Parent: So why is Bobby failing your class?
    Teacher: Bobby, why do you think you are failing?
    Bobby: Uhh, um, I talk too much in class, and don’t pay attention.
    Teacher: Yes, that is part of the problem. Also . . .

    Anyway, it was amazing how honest some of these VERY difficult kids would be.

    In your situation, I would recommend sending your child to wait in the hallway when you are ready to say anything you don’t want him to hear, and save everyone the trouble of a separate conference.

  2. ‘In your situation, I would recommend sending your child to wait in the hallway when you are ready to say anything you don’t want him to hear, and save everyone the trouble of a separate conference.’

    Why should BW put herself in the position of then being expected to explain on the way home to little BWs (inquiring minds want to know) why they were exiled to the hall? It’s a PARENT-teacher conference!

  3. Marguerite, you’re right as a matter of principle, but Heather is right as a matter of practice. In any event, I already committed the error of grumbling in front of my kid about how silly this was — although I was careful to point out that I fully expected (as I do) to hear only positive things during the conference. The thing is that, if there are negative things, I’m not going to hear them unmediated. Also, what I got from a friend who took a morning conference is that this is all about the kids’ self-esteem — which I view as my responsibility, not the teacher’s. The teacher’s responsibility is to instill self-esteem in the classroom by actually teaching, and making my children feel intelligent and accomplished because they’re learning stuff. And since these teachers actually seem to be doing that this year, I don’t need the dog and pony show.

    All I can say is grumble, grumble, grumble.

  4. No teacher in his or her right mind would dream up this practice. This wacky idea MUST have come from administration. I do have conferences where the PARENT asks his or her high school student to sit in–for the purpose of confronting the student with reality! It’s not about self-esteem.

  5. So what would the teacher do if you showed up without your kid–shoot you? Do it. And tell them now you have a good chance to talk honestly, adult to adult. If you wanted to be “nice” you could tell them you’re coming by yourself in advance. With so many parents grumbling about it, this “experiment” may soon end.

  6. This sounds like more of the “empowering the children” philosophy.

    You know, that’s the one where adults don’t get to have adult time, because it would remind the children that they’re only children. Children are to be treated as social equals to adults in all situations.

    Adult time would also remind the children that they are under their parents’ control, and we mustn’t have THAT!

  7. Another example of our current social tendency to give children then “authority” to moderate adult rules, to put children in charge of the adults. Another example of adults alowing the excuse of children’s importance to circumvent their having to take responsiblity for being authoritative and being parents (or teachers.) Why did you fall into this trap?

  8. Children don’t have the authority. As with previous organizations, the children are simply an excuse and a pretext to seize more power. The children won’t be the ones making the decisions, it will be their Regents.

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