Why Parent-Teacher Conferences Can’t Always Be “Parent Friendly”

When I began my teaching career, one of the questions asked in EVERY interview was:

How do you plan to involve parents in your classroom community?

Easy answer: I plan to implement an open-door policy that encourages their presence in the classroom.

This means I sent home letters inviting them to come and read to my first graders or requesting their help chaperoning chaotic zoo field trips. But most importantly, it means—I am here for you and your children, but please be here for me.

Teachers and parents are a team, both holding up their end of the deal to raise confident and capable children.

School conferences are a crucial part of meeting the needs of students. Conferences are planned out years in advance when district administrators determine the school calendar. These meetings are held once in the fall and again in the spring. In no way, should these conferences be a surprise to anyone. Not to mention the fact that schools today have calendars posted online, texting reminders, Robo calls, e-mails, monthly newsletters, weekly updates, daily workbooks, and Friday folders.

Schools want parents to be informed. They want involvement. The school where I taught would encourage us to make conferences happen no matter what. We set out signup sheets two weeks in advance. This was in addition to the numerous communication avenues listed above. If a parent couldn’t get off of work OR didn’t have a car (that happens too) then expect a phone call from me. All that matters is the communication. In this technological age—it really isn’t that hard.

Why not better time slots, you ask?

  • Before school:

Each school is different but there are certain teachers in the building who work directly with the bus drivers and monitor bus duty. As someone who was always assigned carpool duty, I could not tell you one bus schedule from another. I just know that dismissal means you run to your bus lineup. Given that I was not supervising bus drop-offs, mornings were always available for me in person or on the phone while you are commuting to work.

  • After school:

Most teachers stay after their required contract hours every day. This is not specific to conferences week. Teachers have families too and want to see their children at the end of the day. Not to mention, they quite possibly are trying to attend their own children’s conferences as well.

  • During the school day:

Believe it or not, this works for many families. Many parents who work evenings or nights can only attend during the day. Or, they could call on their lunch break if they were unable to get off of work.

Parents might not be aware of the fact that the administrators who determine our calendar; also determine our pay, our stipends, our vacation, and when the conferences will take place. Conferences are held during “midterms” so children have the opportunity to make gains before report cards are issued. They are held at a time in the school year when parents and educators can discuss what teamwork is needed so that the child can and will succeed.

Not only are the days scheduled but the hours are as well. The hours are the same every year. If you know you will have extracurricular activities—make other arrangements.

When you receive your soccer schedule, check your school calendar.

“Oh shoot, these two are going to overlap!”

E-mail your teacher and see what can be worked out ahead of time. Don’t wait until 10 minutes after the conference has started to sweat your way through your deodorant while speeding to school and endangering the lives of everyone on the open road. It is up to the parents to set the example of time management in the home.

As adults, we overbook and over-stress constantly. What if we started showing our children that we don’t have to do it all? But, show them we will do everything when it comes to their education and their needs. Our children watch us all the time. We are the models for how they will parent one day.

Teachers have very little say over the scheduling of school conferences. But, they are available each day to determine the best way to communicate with you and your child.

We know your children like our own, we want to know you, too.

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