An Absence Misunderstood

Getting "stood up" at a Parent-Teacher conference may happen for a variety of reasons.

Photo of Jared Amalong
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October 18, 2005. I can vividly remember that day. In addition to aging another year, it was my first scheduled parent-teacher conference.  I was a veteran teacher of 11 days (literally, I had just stepped foot in the middle school Language Arts classroom) and was so excited and nervous for my first formal interaction with a particularly energetic student's parents.  Unfortunately, the circumstances that mandated the meeting included academic performance and behavior issues.  Nonetheless, I was excited to have a conversation with the parents to see how I could best help their child.

As the clock continue to tick past 5:00 PM, I looked down at the stack of notes, examples of student work, and attendance records.  The student informed me that his father worked night shifts, so I scheduled the meeting as late as possible.  Certainly, they would appreciate my consideration and make the effort to attend the meeting, right?  The clock continued to tick.

An unanswered phone call and an hour later, I chose to pack up my things and revisit the parent-teacher conference on another day.  I was sad, angry, and confused.

Years later, I have had a chance to reflect more deeply on that failed attempt to meet with the parents of a challenged student.  Were the parents tired of hearing negative feedback about their child?  Was a potential language barrier enough of a deterrent?  Did they not trust the education that their child was receiving?  Unfortunately, I won't ever know the answers to my questions.

Moving forward in this newest Teachers Guild collaboration, how might we create incentives for parents to participate in communication with their child's teacher?  I sure want to learn from the ideas of our community!

[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe something you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research.

It is important to reflect and "peel back the layers" before coming to a conclusion. I made an assumption (and took it a bit personally) about the parents' absence. That moment in 2005 was a time I needed to practice empathy!


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Photo of Margaret Powers

Thanks for this story Jared Amalong ! It would be so great to be able to get inside the hearts and minds of the families we work with as educators. I also wonder if there are ways (maybe a checklist? - thinking of Atul Gawande) to help teachers keep that interest and curiosity at the forefront of their minds when preparing to meet and actually meeting with families? 

Photo of Jared Amalong

Coach Maggie - Love where you are taking this!  I have a few ideas for the Ideate phase brewing :)

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