March 11, 2008, - 3:57 pm
Parent-teacher conferences are a time-honored school tradition, but for many teachers they are also trying, emotionally wrought encounters. These days, the sessions are taking on a new look as schools contend with assertive or no-show parents as well as higher academic stakes that can cause tensions.
Some teachers are providing soft lighting and candles to set a friendly atmosphere. Students are being invited to lead sessions, in part to keep the adults in check. . . .
Christy Flynn, a fifth-grade teacher who is also a moderator at the website www.atozteacherstuff.com, plays soft music in the background (the songs of Harry Connick and Josh Groban are popular), lights a candle and sets out peppermints and chocolates for parents at her Louisiana grade school.
“When I have parents dealing with not-so-great news or more difficult issues, it does seem to take the wind out of their sails a bit,” Flynn said.
But apparently, all this softness doesn’t really have the desired effect:
There are also poignant miscommunications, like the time Jo Ann Sayers, who worked in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, met the mother of a fourth-grader. The boy apparently was running a racket in which he convinced his classmates that if they didn’t hand over their lunch money in exchange for his protection, they’d be beaten up.
At the first parent-teacher conference, the 10-year-old boy offered to translate for his Pacific Islander mother, who apparently didn’t have a clue about his behavior.
“Remembering the directive to say something positive to begin a conference,” Sayers said, she started to say that the boy was good at sports. But before she got to the words “at sports,” the mother jumped up and hugged her son, thinking Sayers was praising the boy for being good.
“I just sat there in a state of shock,” Sayers said.
Where’s Joe Pesci when you need him? That’s what we need at parent-teacher conferences. Attention: Media Matters, I’m kidding. Half-kidding.
Tags: Christy Flynn, Debbie Schlussel, Harry Connick, Jo Ann Sayers, Joe Pesci, Josh Groban, Louisiana, Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, teacher, www.atozteacherstuff.com