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Diary of a Teacher’s First Year: Reports and Parents

We just finished the first ‘report card season’, as well as our parent/teacher interviews, at my school. It’s one of the most important times of the year, in my opinion, both for the teachers and for the students and families.

As teachers, it’s really great to try and keep in contact with the parents of your students, both for good reasons and bad. Parents want to know if the child is being disruptive to the class, but they want to know even more that their child is doing really well. Of course, contacting every single parent as much as they would like to isn’t always feasible.

I teach music, band, and Language Arts to Grade 6-9 students. This means that, instead of having 3 or 4 homeroom classes that I rotate through for several different lessons a week, I actually have about 200 students that I see on a weekly basis. There’s not enough time in my year to actually call all of those people, or e-mail all of them with regular check-ins. So, I really value my parent/teacher interview time.

There’s a fairly commonly held idea that says dealing with recalcitrant students and parents both is a big part of a teacher’s job. While it is true that dealing with student behaviour is a not-insignificant portion of my job, I’ve never had a situation where I think that the parents are a ‘problem’ or ‘obstacle’. I keep seeing this borne out in my conversations with parents, both in electronic form as well as more personal phone or face-to-face contact. Every set of parents I’ve talked to so far just wants their child to do well.

A comic that made the rounds on the Internet a while back.

A comic that made the rounds on the Internet a while back.

The above comic sort of sums up this feeling. There’s an element of truth here : our modern society tends to place a lot less emphasis on the responsibility of the student than it used to. However, I’m glad to say that I have not yet experienced anything even close to the above.

I think one of the things that has really helped me in this regard is that I’m continuously trying to stress it in terms of ‘helping’. If I have a student that’s doing poorly, I try and focus the discussion on what I can do, and what the family can do, to help with bringing out the potential of the student. I believe that I shouldn’t have anybody failing anything, and even the most argumentative and shut-down student still has the potential to do well.

When I look at it this way, I am reminded of another concept that I think is really important: my job actually isn’t to teach students things. My job is to teach you how to learn. I will have any given student in a class for at most four years, if they take music, then band 7, 8, and 9. That’s actually not that much time. How many people actually are 100% prepared for life when they leave post-secondary after a 4-year degree? The concepts that I teach you in four years may not last. But what you will use every day for the rest of your life is your ability to learn.

And that is why I do what I do.

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2 Comments

  1. Likewise–the cartoon takes it to extremes. Generally, aggressive parents tend to back off and become much more supportive when they hear the facts. It’s all in the approach. Fighting fire with fire does not work. Meeting accusations and frustrations with the facts and, possibly, solutions tends to work.

    • Jazzman says:

      Absolutely. It’s human nature to want to be right, and to try and argue for it, but it doesn’t actually lead anywhere 9 times out of 10. Even students usually react that way; as mixed-up as some of the teenagers I teach can be, no one really, in their heart of hearts, actually wants to do poorly or think of themselves as stupid. Provide some help, or a solution, and they’ll generally take it.

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