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The Joys of the parent-teacher interview…

I have all of ten minutes, yet that is just enough time to find out that the two girls are doing well and meeting all expectations and outcomes per their grade level.  I am glowing with pride at their success.  I listen as teachers gush over their writing and leadership abilities.  I almost feel embarrassed at the exclamation points I can hear at the end of each comment made.  I am truly grateful and proud (dare I say joyful?) in regards to how I feel toward my children, as each one of my four has special, unique abilities and a desire to learn and improve.  Keys to lifelong learning are well established which will open doors for them long past the elementary grade levels.

I am in and out of two classrooms before I can even look at a single piece of writing or even read the cover on a report.  I’ll save the writing folders for home when I have more time to linger over the delightful stories and thoughtful word choice used.  These stories never disappoint, each one containing nuggets of child-like wonder.

Although for me, there really is not any need to prolong the visit beyond the time allotted, one does wonder how ten minutes could ever be enough time to really get a feel for where your child sits in their academic, social and intellectual development.  Of course it is certainly not time enough for the parent of the struggling child.  Nor is it enough time for parents of the average student.  I realize that I would have been given a longer interview within which to meet the teacher had my child been failing to meet the curriculum outcomes, but what of the children who are not struggling?  Do over-achievers not warrant time for discussion on ways to challenge and stimulate learning for them beyond the prescribed outcomes?  It is an interesting reflection to make, as the time we give something often speaks of the importance and priority it holds in our life and work.

I know that school is fast becoming an institution wherein students are targeted by differentiated teaching styles and wherein learning can be driven by what interests the learners.  Certainly, within this format there are basic areas that all students must be taught.  However, often those that learn the basics quickly are left unchallenged while those in the low to mid academic range garner the bulk of the teacher’s time and attention, at the time expense of the rest of the class.  There is a struggle to retain and understand key concepts and ideas while the student who excels struggles to not become laden down by apathy and disconnect.  Which is the worse of the two?   Neither student group is really being targeted in this environment.

As a teacher myself, I support inclusion in all its facets and terms of usage.  I think more supports should be there for students on both ends of the equation: for students that struggle as well as for students who excel.  Priority should be placed on not just meeting in the middle, but targeting teaching to truly meet the learner where they are.  If that means differentiated teaching, then so be it.  We need to teach to the learner, not the outcomes prescribed for the learners.

Ten minute interviews are great for busy parents with over-booked daily itineraries.  But, as a parent, I would like to think that small window of time is not a reflection of the attention my children are truly given in the classroom.


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