21 October 2012

Parent Teacher Conferences- The Specifics

I tried to stick with generalities in my first Parent/Teacher Conferences piece, but now I'll get into specifics (omitting or changing names of course. I'm not ready to get fired yet).
I think I may have the most diverse student body in the entire United States. I met with Iraqi parents, parents from all over Central and South America and the Caribbean, Pakistani parents, parents with adopted children, gay parents, African American parents, and even a few run-of-the-mill, white American parents. I learned that one of my 12 year olds got detained trying to flee El Salvador for America with his 17 year old uncle earlier this year. A 12 year old innocent kid escaping gang violence in his home country only to be arrested. Puts a different perspective on their home life and why they haven't been doing their homework. I learned of another student who watched his brother die a gruesome death at the hands of the Salvadorian gangs as they attempted to seek refuge elsewhere. Many of these border crossings are truly horrific and make me  oh so grateful for my safety and security.
One of my conferences involved the whole family- my student, his two older sisters, and the mother. The mother had gold frames around her teeth- no joke- and the older sister translated into Spanish. I had to keep a keen ear out for her words (yo hablo pequeno Espanol) because I was afraid she might cover for her brother through some errant and liberal translations. It was like a family gathering; I was just waiting for them to start printing T-shirts with "Sanchez' Familia Reunion 2012 con Sr. Bennett" on them.
Another conference was entirely one-sided. I'm not even kidding you. The father walked in with his daughter and didn't say a word, not even an introduction. To avoid the silence I jumped in and said, "Your daughter is very good in my class. She is smart and does a great job! I have no problems with her. She turns in all her work!" He nodded, and that was it. I asked if he had any questions. He shook his head. I peered at the daughter and the daughter shook her head. Keep in mind this transcription is literal, hence we'd only been sitting together for maybe 15 seconds. I said, "Well great, good to meet you then. Thanks for coming in!" They both nodded and didn't move. I waited a half a second, but still there was nothing. I got up from my chair, and they kept sitting. It felt like the conference was too short for us to separate, but yet we had no further reason to continue the meeting. I got the sense that this responsible father had no idea what these conferences were for or why he was supposed to be at school at 7:00pm on a Thursday night, but he came anyway because he's diligent. Finally I said to him, "Well, I have some other people waiting so I think I'm going to invite them in. Good to meet you!" Only then did he realize we were concluded and he shook my hand and left. He literally was a mime the entire 45 second conference. The daughter's only words were "Well, that was a sort conference!"
I have some chairs outside my room for parents to sit in before I invite them in to meet with me. It makes the conference a little more personal once we're in my room. One grandfather just didn't get the memo I guess. I was with another parent and he came strolling in like it ain't no thang. He kept walking around the back of the room looking around curiously (or suspiciously) while I met with this other parent. I was waiting for him to open my desk and discover my secret stash of... Reese's. Very peculiar.
Many more of my 47 conferences were memorable, but here you just get a whetting of the appetite. You'll have to become a teacher to get the full dose.


Emily J said...

I love hearing about your teaching experiences.

Mckell said...

I remember how awkward those were. But I always made my mum go cause I usually got extra credit if a parent came.