Three Common PTC Questions

I wanted to quickly follow up on last week's post about Parent Teacher Conferences. As I said, it's difficult to be completely honest sometimes when your students are so low performing. I know that several of the parents seemed shocked to see so many 1's and 2's (1 is way below grade level, 2 is below/approaching grade level) on their child's progress report. I think I have been hesitant in the past to be fully honest, or at the very least I've tempered my tone, because it invites an uncomfortable conversation.

The conversation explicitly or implicitly raises three questions. One is why didn't anyone tell me this before? This can be a little disturbing to hear as a teacher. You mean nobody mentioned your child is two grades below in reading and can't add or subtract? I like to give teachers the benefit of the doubt - third grade is a big jump up in ways from second and as a relative newcomer to the school system I employ tougher standards in some ways - but I know some teachers would rather paint a glowing picture for whatever reason. At the same time I know some parents refuse to listen to a teacher when the news isn't good. Either way it's not a comfortable position and you have to be careful to avoid inditing past teachers or the parents.

The next question I hear, is probably the most reassuring, but it's still not easy to answer. What can we do to help? I wish I heard this question more. And yet, I don't always have the answer parents want. Some are looking for a quick, easy solution. Nightly read alouds, checking over homework on a daily basis, and other sort of independent academic work in the house aren't always possible. Still, when a parent asks me this, I feel lucky just to have the opportunity to include parents in the process.

The third question is probably the toughest, especially if it's asked later in the year at meetings in March or after. Why are these grades so low? There are non-answer answers. "It's the beginning of the year," or "I'm a tough grader." But answers like these obfuscate the reality: the school system (myself included) has failed your child. With the exception of my students who are new to the country, that is the only truthful answer I could provide to the question of why a third or fourth grader is reading at a kindergarten or first grade level.

All in all, I was able to avoid the third question in last Tuesday's discussions. And when presenting the children's academic performance, I tried to show it honestly, yet optimistically. Now it's my job to deliver on those promises I made.


Pedro Paz said…
Nice blog i´ve enjoy reading it :)

Cheers from Portugal

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