Lost in Translation

Parent teacher conferences leave the student out!

Photo of Lache Williams
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Many times parents attend parent teacher conferences without their child. In the beginning of my career as a teacher, I noticed how many parents came straight from work leaving their child at home instead of bringing them to the conference. I would have conversations with my parents that I wanted to have with both the parent and the child. Lots of times, the student would come back the next day and begin by saying "My mom said...". This let me know that the mom and/or dad did go home and tell the child something, but what exactly was said! Some times parents switch up or add more emphasis on certain things that may have been said in the meeting. Also, when you need the child there to explain something specific to them, they aren't present. I think it shows a great deal of team work and collaboration when children can physically see that their parents and teachers are on the same page.


Mrs. Doe walks into the room and greets me letting me know that she has moved as quickly as possible to make it to her conference today. "Oh I understand," I stated. "Let's get started." As I thanks Mr.s Doe for coming to meet with me, I began with some of her child's strengths. Then I go on to each academic area and begin to describe how her child is doing in each area. Because I have so many students because I co-teach, there are several parents sitting in the hallway waiting for their conference times as well. I try to move quickly while being as thorough as possible. Toward the end of the conference, the Mrs. Doe begins to ask me questions about something that her child brought to her attention about Math. Because the child is not there I had a hard time trying to understand the situation. Of course this is my first time hearing about the issue. I felt that if the child was there, we could have all communicated the issue and solved the problem better. I knew that once this parent got home to speak to the child something would get lost in translation.


This happens often when parents and teachers meet without the child present. Having everyone present during the conference could def open up better collaborations and communication. 

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

Excluding students is like using the GPS trying to get to a destination without the driver present!

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Photo of Chris Good

Lache, I love this insight. 
Part of this problem probably has a lot to the do with the format of the parent teacher mtg - a format based on talking AT someone instead of talking with someone. I can see where the students might find that process uninteresting  intimidating, or a place without their voice (by choice or otherwise).

Instead of talking, imagine if these meetings were about showing. An actual engagement where the parent, student, and teacher all attend together to understand fully the successes and challenges faced in the classroom - by actually experiencing them fist hand.

Photo of Molly McMahon

Richland2  made it! So glad you've jumped in Lache! You might want to check out the quickie interview from Chip Houston  Student Led Conferences in Middle School Leads to Ownership of Learning . I think there might be some inspiration there. Welcome to the Guild! 

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV

I LOVE your GPS metaphor!  Ultimately the students are the "drivers" of their own education. 

It didn't happen often, but when I had students present for conferences I was able to have some really authentic conversations. It let me compare the student's point of view versus my own, and I learned a lot too. 

Photo of Lache Williams

Thank you! I love having students take part in the conference. I've since then changed my whole approach to conferences which I plan to share as a great idea! :)

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV

Sounds great, and thank you!  I'm so glad you're part of this collaboration!