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What Do Parents Really Want? Morning Minutes, May 12, 2016

“I know my children well — as well as any mother could — but I do not know them in the way that their teachers do. I do not see them when they are out in the world, away from me. At school, they are able to stretch their wings, and practice being the person they are to become, in a way that they cannot do under the watchful eye of their father and me. I want to know this person. Who is he? What do his teachers see that I don’t? How is my child changing and growing, struggling and improving?

Tell me about that person, I will want to say. Not the test scores and the reading charts and the spelling tests. Tell me about the little person that is my child, the one who is growing up and out and away from me, as all children do. Tell me about the person that my child is becoming. Tell me about the person that my child is. Because that little person — my child — is the one I love, the one I really want to know.

These are the things that go through my head, the questions I really want to ask. But 20 minutes is short, and my questions get jumbled in my head or caught in my throat.

But sometimes, if I’m really lucky, the teacher will answer these questions without my asking.

And I will sit in a tiny chair at a tiny table in front of my son’s teacher, and I will cry with humility and the most profound gratitude.”

–Christine Organ, from “What I Really Want to Ask at All Those Parent-Teacher Conferences”

Parents are as different as our students. They come from different places and perspectives. They want and need different things. But, because it is hard to always know where our students’ parents are coming from, it is difficult to always meet their needs. Of course, in part, it really just boils down to a numbers game. Most of us at the secondary level have 150 kids, which means we have a 150 pairs of parents, too–often times more, in the case of divorced families, where now we may have two pairs of parents per kid. As such, the numbers could be overwhelming. But beyond the numbers, lies another critical factor that makes it even more difficult to know what parents want, a lack of real communication between parents and teachers, especially at the high school level. Oh, I don’t blame parents. Nor do I blame teachers. In fact, I don’t know who to blame, so I won’t. I will just simply state that is unfortunate that better lines of communication don’t exist between parents and teachers. It is odd on some level to think that in my twenty years of teaching–if I had to guess–I have communicated with, much less met, fewer than 5% of my students’ parents. I’m not sure that’s okay, and I wonder if things changed in this area of  education, if we couldn’t make significant strides towards improving everyone’s experience.

I was recently asked how I thought parents would respond to my plan for next year. I supposed and suggested that they would initially balk, but that they would come around eventually, seeing that I had their kids’ best interests in mind. But the truth is, I don’t know. How will they respond? And this leads me to the bigger question. When it comes to their children’s education, what do parents want, really want?

Let’s try to find out. Parents–all parents (young, old, kids in school, kids out of school)–what do you want? What would you really like to ask your kid’s teachers? If your child were in my class next year, what would you want to know at those critical checkpoints–or sooner? Please help us better understand and partner with you in this most important time in your child’s life. Join the conversation. No, really, join the conversation. I will do my best to make sure you are heard. Promise.

Happy Thursday, all.


5 Replies to “What Do Parents Really Want? Morning Minutes, May 12, 2016”

  • As a student and a daughter, I know how my parents feel about communicating with teachers. As a student and a daughter, I know what my parents expect from teachers. My parents are very strict on me when it comes to school. The sky is not the limit when it comes to getting an education. My parents mostly don’t communicate with teachers unless there is an initial problem. As a student, I would honestly love to see my parents more engaged with my teachers. I personally feel that if my parents knew my teachers better than just the class they teach, they could relate to me a lot better when it comes to school related topics. My parents always tell me they would love to see our assignments and even when our upcoming tests will be. Not only that, but they expect challenging material in class. My parents want to see me improve. They expect challenging material, but also things I enjoy. My parents love when I talk about what we’re learning in your class just because of the fact that I’m happy with it. Even if it is causing me just a little bit of stress. My parents want to see their daughter coming home happy and excited about things she’s learning in class. That my friend, is something you’re doing right.

  • As a student and a child, I know that parents can get overwhelmed and slightly crazy when it comes to their child in school. But then you have the teacher that wants to do the best they can for their students. While not all teacher succeed in this, they still try. This often creates issues with parents, only because every person is different and has different ideas of good education. As a teacher, this is not new information to you. But my point in saying this is that what I personally think really matters is you trying to do your best for your students. The parents may not always be happy with your methods but the parents are not the ones that you see everyday. They are not the ones that depend on your teaching. Even though your mind may wander to what the parents want, does that truly matter? I would rather have teachers focus on their students and what they think is best rather than the parents. Though parents are in charge of making sure their child grows up right and is a functioning human being. But it is the teacher’s job to make sure that the child has a proper education.

  • My children are very young & just starting school, but I too very much want to know who they are at school. How are they behaving? How do they treat their peers? Who are they friends with? Are they behaving as well as we would expect them too? Are they trying their best & unlocking their potential or avoiding work and trying to get away with the minimum? What kind of standard is the teacher holding them to? Do they show excitement for learning or do they balk at it? Where do they need improvement? How can I help from home? Please communicate with me -I want to be on the same page & make your job as a teacher easier.

  • I would like to ask questions about the teacher actually, like, “Why did you become a teacher?” or “What do you like best about kids in this grade level?” or, “What do you feel is your greatest weakness as a teacher?” I guess these questions sound a lot like ones a prospective employer would ask his/her employee, but knowing these answers as a parent would give me a more clear view of their classroom environment and the person who is basically going to run my child’s life from 8-3 for the next 180 days. i would also ask other questions like, “How do you handle kids who are blatantly disruptive when you teach?” or, “What do you have the children do when they are done with their work?” or, “How do you plan on keeping my child’s attention during your lessons?” Knowing some of these answers would help me connect the dots better as I often hear one thing or another from my child about their day/teacher/class but don’t really know how it all adds up for them in real time each day. I would ask the teacher questions about my child too, like, “What growth (social, emotional, academic, etc.) has my child made this year that he/she/we should be most proud of?” or, “Do you see my child enjoying school in 5 years? If not, what might we do at home to help him/her not lose their love of learning?”
    But I don’t, and I won’t ask these questions. In the quick, often impersonal “conference” setting that is set up for parents (and teachers), there is no time. The system is not set up for parents to be partners with teachers. Most of the time, it’s “them” and “us” and our little children stuck, often alone, in the middle of that wide abyss called, “SCHOOL.”

  • I think back to when my boys were in school, and I think that 6th grade was most likely the last grade I had a conference with their teacher. After all they were on their way to Jr. High. Growing up and wanting to start their own journey, and a little less influence from parents in their life.

    When I would attend conferences when they were in grade school we would learn how they were doing in their studies, there work habits, and how they got along with peers. Teachers would point out trouble areas, whether they were understanding the math, progressing with their reading,spelling , writing, getting assignments in on time, and hopefully they would praise your child, or even give you heads up in trouble area’s. By the time they reach Jr. High, they want to make decisions about their journey, in fact I just heard this verbalized by a young man. The parents response was “we will have a say in your education.” I think the young man was disappointed but yet he half way accepted this, why because he has had parents and teachers to guide him this far,and knows that they will be there for him in the future. I think and feel that teachers,students,and parents, need to stay connected and and communicate,too make school a positive, not a negative in their lives.

    My kids are grown now, but I do have Grandchildren in school. I think that it is vital for all concerned to keep communications open, I would still want to know how my child was progressing, is this child learning what they need to know, to go out into the world?

    By this time in their lives they should be ready to accept responsibility for decisions they make (High School). Yet some still need a little guidance and nurturing in this area, sometimes we as parents are not wanted in these areas. We are stepping on toes, trying to give too much advice, not really listening so we have a tendency to back off, I guess parents still may need to know that they too can help make good decisions . So I would ask that some how we could still have the concept of knowing that our future generation is getting all they can out of their education, that they are learning in the best way possible. As I see it , it needs to be all working for the best of the student, opening the doors for positive learning, not for some but all.

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