Parent-Teacher Conference Day/Night. ‘Tis the season, and for the first time in twenty-five years, I am not at all involved. I’m not going as a teacher or a parent. It’s a weird feeling. I still have that nervous feeling that accompanies the dusted, sparkling bookshelves, sanitized table tops, and yummy fall smells in the diffuser. I remember conference forms with names and teacher talking points filled out and arranged by planned arrival time, schedule posted in the hallway, the realization I will not be able to attend my own child’s conference, and my lipstick just so.
Then there was the scheduling, a behind the scenes puzzle of sorts. A puzzle in which all parents need that 5:30 (after work) time slot, even though conferences are over at 7:00. It is necessary to plan extra time for some conferences, yet 7 hours divided by 28 conferences is only 15 minutes per student. This includes hellos, goodbyes, wrong-time arrivals, former student drop-in hellos, and late arrivals. Will my child’s teacher meet with me on another day? My schedule is too full here to attend that conference.
There is also the worry. Do I know my students well enough at this point to answer questions about them as individuals? What personal information my be divulged tonight that I need to adjust for? What concerns might parents bring that I am unaware of yet? With whom have I possibly miscommunicated, who might come with animosity I’m not expecting? What is it that my daughter’s or son’s teachers have prepared to tell me that won’t get said because tonight I am only a teacher, not a mom?
Stop. Stop the worrying. Breathe.
For my parent friends:
Lord, I pray for an empathetic teacher, one who hears my concerns, who understands my frustrations, and has a plan in place to intervene in my child’s area of need. I pray for a teacher with solutions to bolster my student’s social-emotional well-being and enhance her talents. May this teacher who greets me tonight be completely focused on my student the entire time we are conferencing. May she be able to help me understand new initiatives, content standards, and classroom procedures in a respectful way without using “teacher jargon”. Help our conversation, though it be brief, be valuable to both of us in better understanding my child and her learning. Help her to see, that although my child is a small part of her world in this short year of her career, my child is my world. Help my child’s teacher know that I trust her to do what is right. Although I am busy, Lord, impress upon this teacher’s heart that I need to know right away if there are concerns. If I am needed, I will be there to help because this is MY CHILD. Lord, bless this teacher, as she gives her all every day to make my child her best. I pray for her family, that they understand her fatigue tonight and understand her distraction, as she will undoubtedly have lots to think about when she gets home. God, thank you for my child’s teacher and school and all they mean to my family.
For my teacher friends:
Lord, I pray for perfect attendance and punctuality, as it is nearly impossible to accomplish this many meetings in such a small time. May I be mentally alert and focused, as each family entering my doors expects my full knowledge of their child as a student. Give me clarity and tact as I explain student strengths and areas in need of attention. May I sound knowledgeable and not condescending as I explain our district’s new initiatives, state assessments, content standards, and my expectations. Help me to have a listening ear and empathetic heart as parents pour out their greatest concerns. Help me remain calm should I feel attacked, as I understand that my students are this parent’s prized possession. Prepare me to discuss and not defend, to be concise but not curt, to explain and not lecture, to offer tissue and a hug instead of admonishment. May the parents I greet tonight see my hard work and love for their children. May I communicate clearly that I need their help, Lord, that we have to work together, to encourage their children and help them succeed. Lord, at the end of the night, may my own child understand he isn’t last on my list, but first, as it is my job to raise him up to be all he can be as well. Let my family get excited for the grocery store chicken or bowl of cereal they have for dinner, as I am exhausted, Lord. May tomorrow in my classroom be smooth sailing, as that exhaustion is sure to carry over. Thank you, Lord, for my school district and its support of me. Thank you for my job that I do all for your glory.
Happy Parent-Teacher Conference Season, no matter which role you play! Remember, it’s Parent-Teacher NOT Parent vs. Teacher. We’re all in this together, and we need each other as we Do life. Love it. Keep it real.