We are all in this together

Parents, teachers share the same hopes and fears

October brings shorter days and Halloween activities. It’s also when schools typically throw open their doors for parent-teacher conferences. 

The conference is a chance for you to see your student’s classroom, to have one-to-one time with their teacher (or teachers, depending on the grade level), and to hear how the school year is going so far.

As a parent, I remember these meetings as being stressful. It was a double whammy for me because I also went through these conferences every year as a teacher, and felt nervous in that role.

While I thought I knew how well my children were doing in their classes, I also thought that I might learn something that was worrisome, whether it was about my children’s academics or about how they were doing socially or emotionally. These conferences gave me the jitters, and I was relieved when they were over.

Now that I am working as a student teacher supervisor for a university, I have the opportunity to meet with young student teachers as they prepare for their first parent-teacher conferences. I am also observing their mentor teachers as they guide these young teachers through this first experience with parents.

No matter the years of experience for the mentor teachers – whether they are also fairly new or are veterans of several decades – they are just as nervous as the student teachers, and as most of us are as parents facing the same meetings.

I am reminded of the similarities between parents and the teachers who are responsible for our children for 10 months out of the year – and I am struck that we forget to walk in each other’s shoes when we get ready to face each other.

As parents, we hope to hear good things about our children. We want to know they are progressing, and are being good citizens, that they are making friends and staying out of trouble. As teachers, we want to know that the parents feel we are taking good care of their children, helping them to progress, to be good citizens, to make friends, and to help them navigate tough issues. As parents, we want to enter inviting classrooms that reflect a safe, educational, creative and fun environment. As teachers, we hope our students’ parents see we’ve created classrooms that are safe, educational, creative and fun.

We are so busy feeling nervous and uncomfortable we can lose sight of the fact that we want the same things for the students.

I am happy and honored to work with educators who are just starting out. And I am grateful they remind me that these jitters serve a purpose and symbolize all that’s important about teaching and learning.

We are all in this together – parents and teachers – and while we all may be nervous at parent-teacher conferences, it’s because we have a common goal. We want what’s best for our students.

As you head out for this year’s conferences, try to shake off those jitters as you meet the person who is joining forces with you to help your student have a terrific school year. 

Elizabeth Feingold retired from Kearsarge Regional School District, where she worked for over 30 years as a special education teacher and coordinator at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She is a consultant and advocate. Reach her through www.seacservices.com  or email seacsvcs@gmail.com.

More Learning Curve columns by Liz Feingold

Managing anxiety

Students can succeed with a treatment plan and support

The job of the advocate

To best serve the special education student, it takes time

Preparing for the annual IEP meeting

Strategies you can use to improve collaboration and reduce frustration

For some kids, the learning doesn’t stop

Parents should ask to review the impact of ESY services on their child
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