We had parent teacher conferences at school last week, and though it was tiring (especially the first evening when we had only an hour’s break between the last bell and the first conference) we had some good meetings with parents. Because we’re a small school and most teachers have nearly all of the same students, the faculty meet with parents as a group. It’s a little awkward for parents at first. You can see the deer-in-the-headlights look when they realize we’re all meeting with them at once, but in the end it saves them time as well.
Conferences often yield interesting results. When students tell us about their families, they’re telling us their side of the story. Parents often have different stories to tell. Some we’ve heard before, some are heart-wrenching, and some are downright bizarre. After some conferences, we look at each other and say, “that explains a lot!” After others, we say, “Wow! I would never have guessed they were related!” No matter what our impressions are, we never fail to appreciate a parent who expresses genuine concern for his or her daughter’s success.
This year, we heard from many parents how much they appreciate what this school offers their daughters. Many even told us–to our surprise–that their daughter “loves it here!” Other parents still struggle with the fact of their daughter’s pregnancy and express disappointment or heartache. We assure them a few tears are normal and pass out Kleenex. Our calm presence seems to reassure them that they and their daughter–their family–will eventually be okay.
The father of one student shed a little light on his daughter’s frequent uncooperativeness. Her response to nearly any question–no matter how simple–is, “I don’t know.” Because of the quality of work she completes, it’s clear she usually does know. It seems a kind of stinginess on her part. In a class of only six students, her unwillingness to participate in class discussions stifles discussion for the whole class. “She’s that way with us, too,” her dad said, with a shake of his head. She’s still grieving the death of a brother last year, he said, but, “she doesn’t like to share too much.” While he didn’t offer any real solutions, it helps to know she hasn’t singled me out with her attitude. I know it’s foolish to take this sort of behavior personally, but I still sometimes do.
In our setting, we see far too many parents who care far too little. Some parents make appointments and never show up; some refuse to return calls from school. This year, we saw parents of more than half our students, and I was encouraged. I’m taking that as a good omen for the year.