1. Tell me about the last time your parent met with one of your teachers. What was that like?
Freddy: It was in a dining hall. Parents, with their children by their side, were bustling around to speak to as many of their children's teachers in the shortest amount of time. I was taking it slow with my mom, because rushing things related to education was not our style. When we sat down with one of my teachers, the atmosphere could only be described with one word: awkward. I say this because I had to greet the teacher as if I wasn't in their lesson just an hour before. The smile the teacher plastered on their face always seemed devious, as if it held some secret about me that could only be aired out in the presence of my parents.
This is besides the point, the awkward air mainly came because the conversation they were having was about me. Actually, it was really about my grades, and behaviour which may have positively or negatively affected my grades. It was as if my grades were the main dish and everything that didn't have an A or A* was relegated to a side dish. I am not trying to say that talking about grades is bad, but I just hoped that by talking to my teachers, my parents would know of my contributions to my learning community and the different dimensions that there are to me as a student. Although grades play a big, if not the biggest, role in a student's life, there's more to be said and exploited within all students.
Naana: Two years ago, the parent conference was pretty much going over my grades and performance in class – they discussed my attitude and performance in the mock exams. It was scary as I felt that I was at the mercy of the teacher who might not give constructive feedback. There was no dialogue with the teachers and my parent but more of a reporting scenario in which I was never invited to participate in the conversation.
2. Was there ever a time when you didn’t like the way your parents were invited into your learning experience? If so, why?
Freddy: Well, yes. My parents were never given the opportunity to dive into my world, of experiencing my classroom and seeing that there's more to learning than getting a grade on a report card.
Naana: Yes, during parent conferences, the visit was very structured towards my parents listening to the teachers’ comments rather than conversational and exploratory. The duration of the meeting was very short and there were always long queues. The conference were held on a Saturday morning and would have parents visit each subject teacher to receive their comments and performance with me tagging along. It did not help my parents understand what I do in class and if it had helped me grow.
3. What’s one thing you wish your school could do to better connect your family into your learning experiences?
Freddy: My school usually fails in getting my parents to understand the curriculum, so my parents sometimes don't understand what I am learning, or why I have tests in May and June and not in September. I wish my parents could see a free class. My school has open days when parents can watch lessons, but these can be difficult to make time for, and these lessons are not authentic. Every student is on their 'best' behaviour and none of the usual jokes and heated discussions get to see the light of day because we want to impress parents. If only there was a way for parents to watch lessons without casting a shadow on students minds. I wish my school gave students the opportunity to show their parents what and how they learn in class.
Naana: I would encourage schools to organise a mini parent’s weekend that allows parents to visit classes and engage in the content, viewing the school through their eyes.