I began my teaching career at age 22 as a fifth grade teacher in King George Virginia. My first classroom was the old kitchen in Potomac Elementary. The students and I actually had to walk through Mr. Young’s fifth grade classroom in order to get to our classroom. That was a very interesting year. Being my first year in the classroom there are things I remember like they happened yesterday.
I remember getting ready for my first set of parent-teacher conferences. With 26 students in my class, I was scheduled to complete roughly 13 hours of conferences with parents. I probably spent 40 hours preparing for those conferences. I gathered student work to share, I made notes on student strengths and weaknesses, and I created plans for how parents could help their children at home. I was ready!
When conferences came I was nervous. I was a 22-year-old kid playing adult with all of these 40-year-old parents. Most of my conferences went well but a few sets of parents didn’t show up for their conference. “What was wrong with these people? Don’t they care about their child’s education? Do they realize all of the time I put into these conferences? What kind of parent doesn’t show-up for their own child’s parent-teacher conference?” At 22 years old those questions made sense to me.
In my current role as a district level administrator it’s important to me that we utilize parent teacher conference time effectively. It’s important that we intentionally reach out an invite parents in and it’s important that we meet at times that work for our families. In Worthington we have great teachers and I’m proud of what I see going on with parent teacher conferences.
My daughters each had conferences scheduled. The teachers sent home information and surveyed the parents as to what we wanted to learn about during our conferences. They created portfolio’s of student work and they even sent reminder emails. Our conferences were neatly scheduled for our kids on the same day one after another. It was all set-up. These were going to be really good conferences.
Here’s the kicker….they may have been really good conferences had Doreen and I remembered to show-up. Yep, we’re those parents. Not only that, but, I’m the stinking assistant superintendent of schools and Doreen is a teacher. We not only value education, we know how hard the teachers of our children work to prepare for these conferences. And, somehow, neither of us checked the calendar (which was on Google Calendar and thus on our phone, tablet and computer, plus it was written on the kitchen calendar.)
In the craziness of our life, at 41 years old, I learned a new lesson. Some of those families that I was so frustrated with at 22 years old, they cared about their children and the education of their children, more than I ever understood. But, sometimes at 41 years old, life is a bit crazy, and sometimes you just mess-up. That was us yesterday, and today, I have a bit more compassion for many of the parents I’ve worked with for 20 years. I’m one of them, and now I understand.