Thursday, October 20, 2011

Patronizing Much?

In Younger Daughter's backpack this week, a helpful missive from our school district:

The Upper Tax Bracket School District values parents and teachers working together as partners to maximize the educational experience of all students. The fall Parent/Teacher Conferences ... provide an opportunity to establish early communication, develop a collaborative relationship, and create common goals. This partnership recognizes and values the teacher's expertise and the parents' unique insights as they work together to establish shared expectations for the child's social and academic growth.

As you prepare for the fall Parent/Teacher Conferences, the following ideas and questions were developed as a resource for parents.


What does my child need to work on most?

How can I help?

... HOMEWORK ...

How much time should my child be spending on homework?

Does my child assume responsibility for homework assignments?

How can I support my child at home with the responsibility of homework?


Be sure to ask the teacher for specific suggestions on ways to help your child do well.

In other words, the proposed partnership consists of the school saying "Jump!" and the well-behaved parents politely asking "How high?"

Notice that the teacher is presumed to have "expertise", while the parents can offer "unique insights".  Thanks for the partnership, guys.

I'm amazed that they think parents routinely "prepare" for teacher conferences.  Really?  The 10 minutes I've spent blogging this thing are more preparation than I've ever done before.


  1. Prepare? Of course you should! You are the actor and this is your script!! Aaaaand, ACTION!

  2. Suburban Chicken FarmerOctober 21, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    "Be sure to ask the teacher for specific suggestions on ways to help your child do well."

    Okay, good. Got it. Cuz, you know, I thought it would be thrilling for both the teacher and I to talk about how smart we both must be that we managed to get up, get dressed, and even found our ways to the school all on our own!

    Our parent-teacher conferences always begin with the teacher reading, verbatim, the kid's report card to me. You know, next time I think I'll really impress her by reading it to her instead!

  3. I think the truth is that the teachers really don't know what to say, and often are a bit intimidated meeting the parents. The report card gives them a handy way out. I've also had report cards read to me. What a waste of everyone's time and energy.

    And then you get teachers complaining that parents aren't "involved" because they don't show up for the conference. Why? What exactly do teachers think will be accomplished by 15 minutes of face time with the parents?

    Frankly, I'm not sure why I keep showing up for these things. They are usually not productive.

  4. Suburban Chicken FarmerOctober 22, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    Mark Haberman writes concerning education for impoverished students, "Parent conferences give parents who are perceived as poorly educated or otherwise inadequate a chance to have things explained to them."
    I think about his paper a lot these days. Particularly it's explanation of why people in power, even parents, come to be so authoritarian towards especially poor students.

    My most recent conference served mainly to confirm my feelings that the teacher doesn't really like my kid. So, ya know, good to know that.

  5. From FedUpMom's Mom,

    Believe it or not, when I was teaching I found that the benefit of a conference was that I could concentrate on one kid for a while, and maybe get a clue from the parent as to what the kid was about, was interested in, etc. This was middle school, with over 100 students per teacher. Never read 'em a report card though!

  6. PsychMom adds:

    I recently told my kid's teacher that I was sending her to school to learn social skills and develop a sense of herself. I didn't really care that much about academics, I said.

    Utter silence.

    I'll bet he doesn't hear that much.

    But if I was a teacher, and I heard a parent say that, I would have to change my outlook on that kid a lot. I'd have to be watching and listening for different things. I'd be looking less on paper and more up and around at what the kid is doing and saying. In a couple of weeks is parent/teacher conferences and I'm totally going to focus on behaviour and preferences, on how we (the parent/teacher team) are going to keep my daughter interested in learning.

  7. @FedUpMom's Mom, I think it's a good sign that you went into parent-teacher conferences, as a teacher, hoping to find something out. That's not the impression I get from most of the teachers I've had conferences with.

    @PsychMom, I know what you mean, but I phrase it differently. The formula I've come up with recently is, "I care passionately about learning, but I'm not interested in obedience training." That's why we don't do the spelling homework.

  8. I think that everyone will love this mid-trimester report that I received on Friday. There was absolutely nothing about academic progress, just the following categories that the teacher could check if the kid is up to expectations:

    ___Good effort on homework/includes written responses.

    ___Neat and careful effort on classwork

    ___Steady attention during lessons

    ___Cooperative Behavior

    ___Listens and follows directions

    There was a space for comments and my daughter's teacher filled it with foolishness about completing homework and classwork in an accurate and timely manner. Nothing about how she's reading, her math, etc! Uggh!

  9. Kim, that's amazing. In other words, they care passionately about obedience training, but they're not interested in learning. Exactly the opposite of what I'd be hoping for ...

  10. PsychMom says....well that says it all doesn't it? If there was ever any doubt about what the school thinks is important, it can be put to rest now.
    Just check off the box beside: DRONE

  11. Chris, I found the article underwhelming, but I wrote a post for it.