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Roger Barbee: Parents and education

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By Roger Barbee

Because they are used as polling places, many schools are closed on election day. The students are happy for a day off, and it is a good day for school administrators to utilize since no teacher will be missing classes. Thus, the collective wisdom is to use the day as a chance for parents to come in and meet with teachers.

The administration also has made it a work-friendly schedule for parents--teachers are in their classrooms from 11 in the morning to 7 at night. Their day is divided into 15 minute blocks for a total of 31 meeting times per teacher, which creates a great opportunity for parents to meet with their child's teachers and hear about their child's education. All county schools are doing this today, but I will refer to Central High School because it is where I teach and coach.

On Monday afternoon at 3:05 p.m., the conference schedule for each teacher at Central was emailed. The list of classroom teachers totaled 67. So, today, from 11-7, 67 teachers and school administrators will be at Central to meet with any parent. As I looked over the Google-doc showing appointments, I was disappointed that not one parent of my 14 students choose to come in and meet with me to discuss our work in the class.

0 for 14 is not a good percentage.

That caused more curiosity--so I counted the total of 15 minute blocks filled with parent names who desire to meet with some of our 67 teachers. I counted 130 appointment blocks filled. I may have missed some or added some by error, but I am comfortable that if not exact, 130 is close. Of the 2077 blocks open for teacher/parent conferences, only 130 of them are taken. Mind, this is not 130 parents, but just conference blocks scheduled.

Now, I could have made some error in my calculations and am willing to be corrected. Regardless of my math, that leaves the question: Why do so few parents come in and meet with teachers of their child? In my mind, any parent could manage to get to CHS during some part of a teacher's 31 meeting blocks. However, that does not, judging by my numbers, seem to be the case.

I suppose some parents feel that, because of acceptable grades for the first grading period, there is no need for a conference. Another reason could be that a parent has know the teacher many years and feels that he/she knows the teacher. Perhaps the parent thinks that nothing would change or be different if a conference were held. And last, a parent may just be too tired after a hard day's work to go to CHS to confer with teachers.

As a parent of five and an educator for more than 40 years, I find all of the above reasons invalid. Even if grades are acceptable, a parent will gain valuable insight into his or her child's learning by having a face-to-face c0nversation with teachers.

Good grades are not all that should be expected of a high school student and having a face-to-face conversation about what is going on in the classroom is useful information. I am aware that many parents know several teachers for a variety of reasons, one being that the two could have gone to school together. However, that is even more reason to attend conferences. In doing so, a parent supports an old friend, but also can discover new facts about his/her child. Then there is the parent who says why attend because nothing ever changes. This is a flimsy reason for not getting involved.

With no students in the building, election day would have been an ideal time to schedule a 30 minute appointment with an administrator to express opinions on dress, language, and other issues some readers feel strongly about. Finally, how can any parent be too tired to learn about his or her child's education? After all, how can you expect your child to be interested in his or her education if you are not?

I am not sure how many parents attended conferences, but if we are generous and divide the 130 by 2, then we arrive at about 60 parents taking part in today's teacher conferences. We can do better for our children.

Jane Goodall observed that the worst enemy of our future is our apathy. Indifference breeds inferiority. Let's support the education of our children like we support their other activities.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at redhill@shentel.net.



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