Sunday, December 28, 2008

Parent conference overhaul: New York Times article review

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/28/education/28conferences.html

As the article cited above points out, there are parent-teacher conferences conducted nowadays that run contrary to American society, and perhaps adds to the unpopularity of schooling in general.

Can you remember....?

the tradition of parents perched in pint-size chairs, listening intently as a teacher delivers a 15-minute soliloquy on their child’s academic progress, or lack thereof

Yes, most American parents have endured the indignity of perching on baby-sized chairs while enduring demeaning lectures by teachers. I know I endured many and my daughter eventually got into an Ivy League University. She can't have been as bad as they made her out to be, year after year after year. I was horrified at what felt like verbal abuse to me, and what was expected of me to accept, that my mother had not ever had to accept in Canada (the litany of horrors my child had done were listed by this panel of teachers). It just stunned and ultimately disgusted me, that teachers could get away with this verbal abuse to parents. We were talking about a good child here, weren't we? If teachers were perfect, I could understand.

Their criticisms turn teachers into very unattractive, unkind, arrogant individuals. They get very practiced at making parents feel inadequate and ineffective. I always try to turn the criticisms to discussions with more general themes. I was sorry my daughter had to be taught by some of them. And this at a private school we were paying a lot of money for my daughter to attend!

American school systems are obviously foreign to all foreign-born parents, not just immigrants (as many foreigners come here legally and educated, and not poor). What is expected of parents is obviously going to be different than what they experienced growing up in a different country at a different era, and at private vs. public schools.

There is a lot of American education that should be corrected. If Americans could only be humble enough to look at other countries and see what successes they have had with their elementary educational systems, they might learn what could work better here to improve their own teaching practices. Not happening any time soon though. As I said, these teachers are too arrogant.

To teachers and the administrators who organize parent conferences, my question is: how can parents be expected to warmly embrace an educational system that does not concentrate on improving teacher education, and that does not even keep up with successful international educational practices?

And now children are going to have to endure this tirade of personal abuse with parents as well? Sounds even worse to me. How is this an improvement that the concurrent babysitting of children and weekend and evening appointments at parent conferences, personal kindness and less invective on the part of teachers along with suggested plans of action, and translation services when necessary would not provide? Also, adult-sized chairs and less offense would be welcome.

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