It’s that time of year again when for 4 days
during the second busiest week of the entire freaking year in early December, the elementary and middle school kids all come home 2 and a half hours early so their teachers can get some Christmas shopping done at the Container Store hold conferences. That means it is time to harness all that I’m a sucky parent and my kid will be living in my basement when he is 40 parenting anxiety and focus it on your one chance all year to have your kid’s teacher’s undivided one-on-one attention and talk to her (or him, of course) face to face!
That is unless you live in Our Town. For the past several years, Our Town’s school district has convened the Decision Making Brain Trust. (The very same folks that brought us the 5 day rotation schedule and because that was so easy and popular, the current TEN day rotation schedule. And now I NEVER know when they need their freaking library books) The Brain Trust had some coffee and decreed that, starting in second grade, the kids will have “Student Led” conferences. Whuck?
Yes, folks, when we attended Sweet Pea’s, I had to arrange a babysitter for my other 2 kids without the benefit of access to high school babysitters because THEY are still in school all day!! Then Husband had to take off work, of course. I know what you are thinking, Don’t they have evening conferences? Well, yes. But we have to sign up for conferences at Back to School Night. You know, in September. Picking an afternoon time was actually easier than trying to change around the evening schedule. Because back in September I wasn’t sure who would have what which night 3 months in the future. Duh.
So, we split the atom so we could go for our 20 minutes and watch poor Sweet Pea squirm his way through a ridiculous Dog and Pony Show saying (robot voice, please) This is my writer’s notebook, my strengths are that I don’t sweat that much while I write and I have good hair. This is my math folder I am good at solving problems but I need to work on learning my multiplication tables and not being a stubborn pain in the a**. Blah blah blah. The reason for the robot voice is that Sweet Pea practiced for this conference. A lot. That’s right, they use up lots of class time in the weeks prior to the conferences preparing. I am sure the teachers were thrilled about that, because there aren’t enough demands on their class time or anything.
As parents of a child with some special needs, the ONE annual teacher conference is our best opportunity to talk to the teacher about what is really going on. How is it going with Sweet Pea sitting next to Buddy? Did he tell you what that nasty Mean Girl said to him, because he was sick about it at home? Did you know he isn’t eating anything at lunch? Could you encourage him to at least have a drink of water if you think of it? Is there anything I can do to help with the writing at home? Here is our new behavior plan at home, this is what is working and this is what isn’t.
Now, how in the Hell can I talk about him if he is sitting right next to me? I could go slow and speak in euphemisms, but it would be a 90 minute conference and no one wants that. I was assured that the teacher would be available for another conference at a mutually convenient time. Seriously? Wouldn’t it be better if we had an actual conference at our conference time rather than having a non-conference (a nonference, if you will) and then scheduling yet another inconvenient time to have a real conference? Am I missing something or is this the stupidest thing in the history of ever?
Our Town’s administration loves student led conferences for the following reasons (this info came from a District website):
- Student led conferencing is considered an educational “best practice.” Says who? Certainly not me or any other parent or teacher I have talked to. So what, anyway? The conferences are still stupid.
- Students assume greater control of their academic performance. Because they ‘lead’ a conference? Prove it. With one of my kids.
- Students accept personal responsibility for their academic performance. Redundant. See previous comment.
- Parents, teachers, and students engage in open and honest dialogue. NOT! It is exactly the opposite, in fact.
- Parents attend conferences at increased rates. I guess this is good if the point is to get parents there under the pretense that they will get to talk with the teacher about their kid which they. will. not. If they are there to watch their child perform, they can probably get that at home without paying a babysitter.
- Students learn the process of self-evaluation. Okay, I actually agree with this. I know, I am surprised, too. But, does this seriously require a student led conference? I seem to remember multiple self-evaluations that have come home!
- Students build self-esteem. Again, our experience was quite the opposite.
- Most of all, students love it! Students report that they were nervous, but felt proud that they completed their own conference. I took a scientific survey of Pickles and Sweet Pea who disagreed with this point. (Sweet Pea disagreed so vehemently, I thought he was going to go into convulsions of some kind.) We all did agree that this is a big, steaming pile of crap. But crap is a swear pot word. So, we will say big, steaming pile of poo.
Now let’s have a real damned conference already. Sheesh.