Are relationships our biggest failure in schools?
Looking at the tone of today’s education’s reform conversation, the question needs to be asked – with everything that’s wrong in today’s schools, are relationships our biggest failure in schools? While looking for the cartoon that accompanied my previous article, I came across a lot of different cartoons dealing with parent-teacher relations.
Some were similar in nature to the aforementioned post, some dealt with parents not wanting to go to conferences, some with students dreading the results, some with teachers preparing to deal with angry parents, the list goes on. But the underlying theme was that most people seem to dread the moment when parents and teachers come together to discuss a child. This isn’t a recent development, either. I remember feeling nervous about parent-teacher nights even when I was in grade school, and I was a good student! (albeit, a little on the quiet side)
After talking with my folks, they brought up the point that the inconvenience of taking time out a busy day was why a lot of parents dreaded conference nights. Not that the parents didn’t want to go, but it seemed like such an out-of-the-way chore for some that the inconvenience outweighed the curiosity. They also remembered that once I got to high school there were only a distinct set of parents who still attended conference nights every semester, and those were mostly the parents of students who were doing well. My folks happened to think it was a necessity to talk with my teachers at least once to get a feel for what I was doing, and what my teachers were really like. But unfortunately, not all parents feel the same. Again, there are bigger cultural, socio-economic factors at play behind all this, but that’s another story.
Mind you, my grade school days spanned from the 90s to the early 2000s before everyone had multiple emails, Skype, smartphones, and general internet knowledge; most people did, but not everyone placed the same emphasis on email as they did phone calls and in-person meetings. These days, parents and teachers are free to email one another several times a day if they wanted. And perhaps some of them are in regular contact. But in regards to the general population, why is there still that negative stigma attached to parent-teacher conferences?
I think a majority of issues that come up in the classroom could be solved with an open dialogue with parents (and students too, no need to keep them out of it). And not just one night a semester, but multiple opportunities, like monthly emails or newsletters on what’s going on. Maybe even an occasional group chat between parents and the teacher. This may seem like something that elementary schools are more like to adopt (perhaps because they do), but there is no need to stop that kind of interactive practice when students get older. In fact, there should be more dialogue as children approach college-readiness, so everyone can be on the same page in making the right choices for the future.
Parent involvement is one the biggest factors in how a child grows up, from health, to discipline, to education. Just because you send you child to a school where someone else is paid to teach them, there is no assurance that what happens in the classroom is getting through. Teachers have dozens of students they need to look out for, so of course some may get lost in the cracks once in a while. I think it is the job of the parent to keep up with their children’s education as much as they can throughout the years so that there are no surprises when those report cards come out. I’m not saying that more parent-teacher involvement will definitely lead to better grades (seeing that grades shouldn’t be the most important factor anyway), but it will lead to better understanding of how to help each student in the best way possible for their future.
So actual parents and teachers out there, how do you feel about parent-teacher conferences? Is parent involvement dwindling in your schools? Do you even have parent teacher nights anymore?