Slice of Life: Parent Conferences, What’s the Verdict?

It’s Tuesday, time for Slice of Life. Thank you to Dana, Stacey, Betsy, Anna, Tara, and Beth at Two Writing Teachers Blog. Read more slices and contribute your own here.


Today’s slice marks the first day of parent conferences.

To prepare, I pull together a sort of paint by numbers portrait of each child.

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It’s a snapshot of mastery of the standards at this point. Some students are very “photogenic” in the classroom environment. Others, just don’t look good in this light. They need a different space or perhaps time to show their real colors, their true beauty.  This parent conference moment is just that, a moment in time with one set of expectations and measures. Is this measurement what will matter or measure a child’s potential for the world they will soon be participating in?  A world they will contribute children to that may end up in our future classrooms; a world that will support their parents (and us) in old age.

For all this data (and it does provide direction to teach with), it isn’t the picture that parents hold in their hearts. When parents walk in and ask, “How are they doing?” It’s with the child’s yesterday, today and tomorrow swirling around in their heart.  You see it in their eyes. They are looking for confirmation that it’s going to be okay. They don’t want their child to fight the battles and make the mistakes they did. They want their child’s path to be better.

The child sits next to their parent, wanting more than anything to please. Some get teary and you’re not even sure why. Perhaps they are beginning to feel the burden they can’t begin to articulate.

You talk with each parent wrapped up with what matters more than anything to them. I’ve known their child for nine weeks — two hours each school day. I’m just learning who they are and their parents are looking expectantly at me to give them a verdict.  Will they make it?

We talk about growth and goals.

We talk about concerns and next steps.

We talk about student’s dreams, about middle schools to apply to, about times when their child felt proud of an accomplishment, of how to help that child find those moments of pride.

While the mastery of standards matter, when I really think on what matters most, what we want each child to walk out with, is the sense of pride in accomplishment; the knowledge that they can make it and that they matter. As much as they depend on us now, we will soon be depending on them.

So much is at stake. I feel lucky to have families that care so deeply. It is their past, present and our future.


5 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Parent Conferences, What’s the Verdict?

  1. Oh this piece brought tears to my eyes. I always collected data and had it all laid out for the parents to see at conference time. This assignment, this score, this test. Now that I’m a mom myself, I think you are exactly right. I want to know that my child matters, that you see her strengths and build on them, that you believe in her. So, so, so true.

  2. “As much as they depend on us now, we will soon be depending on them.”

    That really is the crux of it. Parents live by what they learn. By the time we reach parenthood many of us have forgotten that children learn what they live. It cycles but neither side really remembers in the now. Having been there as the student and the parent I am sure all of us feel this keenly. A very touching piece from the view of the third party in the room. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Well said, and so true. Every parent wishes they were sitting across from you for parent teacher conferences. You arrived at the very heart of what conferences are really all about.

  4. If only every teacher could remember this: “what we want each child to walk out with, is the sense of pride in accomplishment; the knowledge that they can make it and that they matter.”. This slice comes at such a good time. My own child is dealing with the trauma of a teacher’s best effort to “fix” which is actually SO incredibly destructive on a personal level. Ouch! Says both my mom and my teacher heart. As teachers when we teach the child rather than this piece or that text we build humanity. We hold the power to build up or tear down. Thank you for remembering this, for lifting your students up and teaching them with care.

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