Where has the year gone? It’s October! (The hot climate in my new hometown of Houston doesn’t help… it certainly doesn’t feel like fall.) This past week we had 6-week parent-teacher conferences. 6 weeks!
Parents were a major piece of me getting through my first year of teaching. (Mine were more essential than anyone else’s, but here I’m referring to my students’ parents.) I made it my goal very early on to build relationships with my students’ families, and it paid off. The parents were my window into the community at large, and as I gained their trust, my comfort level at the school and in the neighborhood grew. When I struggled with classroom management, they never seemed to judge. In fact, they’d sigh with me, laugh with me, or have an important conversation with their child with me. I know that I’ll carry that lesson with me throughout my years of teaching. Without parents on board, I’d be a far less effective teacher. My life would be more stressful. Everyone needs a team, and I want to always have parents on mine.
This year, I’ve made sure to leave my classroom door open, and to be around for anyone who walks in before and after school. Brief, friendly conversations go a long way. I try to not seem too busy to talk, even when I am. I try to pick up the phone and call parents who I don’t see often, or send a quick email update to those who prefer the internet.
Parent-teacher conferences reminded me that parents appreciate those things. They appreciate knowing with whom they are leaving their most precious 5 or 6 or 7-year old. They appreciate having a sense of what that same child is doing for 8 hours per day. They appreciate when their contributions to their child’s upbringing and education are acknowledged and celebrated. Most importantly, they appreciate feeling like you really care about and know their child.
My best conference moment might have been with the mother of one of my wonderful but also struggling first graders. After sitting, talking, joking, and problem-solving together about how the year has been for her daughter, she leaned back and said, “Yep, that’s my Ashley! You know my Ashley!” In those two sentences, she validated my role as her daughter’s teacher. She [metaphorically] high-fived me for doing something right. She decided that we could be on the same team.
Now on with the rest of the game!