When I was a boy, I always felt anxious as my Mother headed off to my school for her parent/teacher conference. What would Mom and my teacher talk about? I played back in my mind all my interactions with my teacher. I tried to remember whether I had turned in all my work on time.
Parent/teacher conferences are scheduled in our schools this week. We have been preparing for them by making certain our parents see student work displayed in hallways, and we are suggesting topics for conversations between teachers and parents, and between principals and parents. I know that some of our teachers go out of their way, expending their own funds, to place out a bowl of candy or have bottled water available to offer parents. They draw up tip sheets for reinforcing reading and math skills in the home. They take extra time to update all academic data. They prepare notes about behavior or tardiness or how well a child pays attention in class. Teachers often have high hopes for conference night, and they are sometimes disappointed when they do not see the parents they had hoped to see.
There are new tools out there to help out families be connected to teachers on a more frequent basis - daily, in fact. The most important of these tools is Parent Assistant. It's an online resource. Parents establish their account with their child's school, and then with their individual secure login, can access their child's grades, course schedule and attendance record, any time of day or night. Other tools that we use now to keep parents informed are email, text alerts and the district's automated dialing system.
While we do not believe these tools will replace the good old face-to-face parent/teacher conference, we think they give parents a better sense of how things are going in school, and on a timely basis.
It's so different from the time when I was a boy. If Mom had had access to the internet and electronic documents back then, she would have been up-to-date on my school records. And that once-a-year visit to the teacher would have been less anxiety-producing for me!