AFTER the quarter exams, the Parent-Teacher Conference comes next. As parents, do you look forward to it? How do you feel about going to one? Do you prefer to escape from the PTC altogether? For your kids, are they excited for you to meet their teachers?
I have to say I dreaded it in the beginning.
Since my kids were in Pre-K, I didn’t even have to wait for PTC. My daughter at
3 1/2 years old was already quite strong-willed. Teacher Vangie from her
Montessori school would call me that Meagan would not listen to instructions.
There was a time when Marcus was 2, he hit his classmate after an incident. At
that time, I thought, “Is this really my issue? Isn’t it the teacher’s job to
guide my kids’ behavior in school?”
I remember during Meagan’s PTC with Teacher
Vangie, I had a dreadful feeling. I already knew Meagan was one of the seven
kids she asked to come in 30 minutes before class every day, so she could work
on her more. During the conference, I was quiet. She pointed out how Meagan’s
lack of listening to authority may affect her future learning. If she did
not recognize the teacher’s authority, then
she would not absorb what the teacher and her future teachers would teach her.
She told me I need to be firmer at home. She asked me about our home dynamics
and rules. My inner knee-jerk reaction was to be offended. I felt my parenting
skills were being challenged. However, I truly commend Teacher Vangie on her
kindness and candor. Toward the end of that experience, I had a wider view on
PTCs. I always thought PTC was a time for the teacher to praise my child
and tell me which subjects I should support them more in. That PTC showed me
that I should utilize these meetings as my time with “experts”…to listen, ask
as many questions, and take home tips on how to better my parenting skills.
Through the years, it also made me step back
and extend my question to: What is the ideal relationship between parents and
teachers, or even with the school administration?
When Meagan was Grade 1, a grandmother of one
of her classmates told me during the daily drop-off on how a teacher tore
Meagan’s work in front of the whole class the previous day. She advised me to
confront the teacher because she felt bad for Meagan. I spoke to Meagan right
away. Meagan explained to me the teacher had told them previously that if
someone were not finished with the seat work, they should raise their hand
because they could not go home. She said she did not want to not go home so she
just brought home her work and submitted the next day. The teacher tore her
paper when she submitted it and told her she will get a zero.
I honestly had to breathe so deep to determine my next action. I hugged my daughter tightly first. Then I told her, “Let’s wait for your teacher.
You should apologize for not following her
instructions.” She was teary-eyed but said OK.
When the teacher finally arrived, Meagan
cried a lot and said sorry. The teacher just looked at her and told her that
what’s done was done and she would still get a zero. It shocked me. We
walked away. I hugged her again and then said, “Meagan, this is the teacher’s
rule. You did not follow it so you need to face the consequence of your
In the car, my mind was imagining a million
ways of how I could’ve handled the situation differently. Did I fail in
defending my child? Should I have elevated the concern to the school
I went back to two critical reference points: my child’s long-term needs and the teacher’s intention. I knew I needed Meagan to face consequences on her own someday. She also had to deal with various kinds of authority and people one day. As hard as it was to see her crying, I knew I had to hang on firmly for the long-term goal. As for the teacher, yes, she definitely belonged to the older school of thought, but when I was able to settle down, I realized the teacher just wanted to be fair to all the other students who stayed.
As I continuously became more open, I believe
my openness in accepting both my kids’ strengths and flaws has benefited them
the most. Each year I see them grow up more independent, empowered and
accountable. I believe it is good to accept at the onset that we cannot
raise our child well by ourselves. Aside from alleviating some of the
pressure on ourselves, the reality is that it is good to get constructive
inputs and have experts to bounce off on with our questions and the possible
solutions. In short, it is good to have teachers to collaborate with in
maximizing our children’s potential, instead of seeing their inputs as attacks
on our parenting.
Our kids’ worlds are definitely more complex
and competitive. I believe we send them to school to equip them to be
future-ready. This preparation involves academic skills, as well as life
skills. School is our kids’ prelude to the real world. Is the real world
perfect? Will the real world adjust to you? And last but more important, do you
expect another to person to solve your problems for you?
Next week, I will expound on these questions, as well as general principles I live by in fostering a more collaborative relationship with teachers.