So, I had full intentions of writing a post today that included awesome pictures of some of our fun adventures since moving here – a day in NYC, a weekend in DC – but I forgot to put the pictures on my computer. Instead, today you get my perspective on urban education and the art of the parent-teacher conferences, and parent-teacher-school relationships in general.
When I first interviewed for TFA, one of the role-play questions I had to answer involved my solution to getting & keeping parents involved in student education and the art of pulling off a really successful parent-teacher conference night. At the time, in all of my idealism, I remember saying that if the first night/time wasn’t successful then it was something that WE, AS A SCHOOL, were responsible to fix. We just needed to call parents more, communicate with them ahead of time, go the extra mile, provide food and day care and set everything up perfectly so that we call all work as this great TEAM to further their child’s education. I still have a lot of that optimism and I do believe that having parents involved in the education of their children is a vital part of making successful students, but as I alluded to yesterday, there is SO MUCH MORE that goes into actually MAKING the solution happen. In the case of the parent-teacher relationship, the solution starts with me…
I remember having high hopes on day 1 and 21 and 71 and 101 about calling and reaching out to parents, about setting up times for students to stay after school, about conferencing with them over the phone because I “understood” that it was difficult for them to come in to the school. What I know now is that actually DOING that for all of my students on a daily basis amidst planning, paperwork, documentation, teaching, having a successful marriage and community relationships, the first thing that ALWAYS falls to the side for me is calling parents and enlisting their help. I hate to admit that I have students that have failed and are failing my class, have missed 30+ days since FEBRUARY, are missing tests, quizzes, labs, and I have not called their parents. A lot of days I justify it. I say, “I give them progress reports “weekly” (every three weeks…), I gave parents my contact information at the beginning of the semester, they could always reach me when they don’t EVER see their kid going home and doing any homework.” But the reality is, I’ve dropped the ball. I know that if I had taken the time every day, to call home when students were absent (because I know no one else is doing it), to call when a student missed a quiz, failed a test, clearly needed some extra help, I would probably be seeing greater results and less frustration with missing assignments and failing grades as I am right now.
I have in motion plenty of dreams and goals for why my second year will be different, how I will set things up for success from the beginning, knowing what I know now. In my heart I’m excited and I know that it will change things in my classroom, but in my head I also know how utterly difficult it is to maintain. Many days there are just not enough hours to do what we know we should.
I’m developing new strategies, and trying to figure out how to implement them and make them self-sustain. In the meantime, as a result of my inability to bridge the connection between school and home, I will likely see very few parents between 1 and 7pm today. I’ll be sitting in my classroom forging ahead on lesson planning, ironing out a long-term project for my students to do and being very productive, but perhaps I would see my students being more productive if we had the real parent-teacher conferences we are supposed to.