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Parent-Teacher Conferences

The first marking period of the school year ended last week, which means parent-teacher conferences. And I've got to admit, the buildup to the conference has me a bit nervous.

First off, the school has spent the past two months or so evaluating my son. The teacher has said that she goes over those results in detail. But all I get with the teacher is 15 minutes! How much can I learn in 15 minutes? Clearly, I've got to make a list of questions ahead of time and prioritize them. Even then, will there be time to ask questions? And given that my husband will watch the boys while I'm at the conference, will I ask all the questions he wants answered?

Somehow, this conference feels different from those during preschool. Sure, I'd enter those with trepidation, worried about what teachers might say about the little guy. But preschool is preschool, and it really doesn't matter all THAT much. Hmmm. Given how nervous kindergarten conferences have me, I'm going to be a wreck come high school!

Besides that, though, the nomenclature of discussions in preschool was pretty standard: Can he sit and listen? Does he follow directions? Does he share? Does he stand up for himself? Attending a few PTA meetings and reading the literature sent home has made me realize the county's schools talk a different language that I'd better learn fast. For instance, balanced literacy is reading. And modeling numbers just means counting objects.

The National Education Association guidelines on parent-teacher conferences say they usually run 40 minutes. The site makes some good recommendations about questions to ask. Some of my favorites: "Is my child working up to his ability? Have you noticed any sudden changes in the way he acts? What kinds of tests are being done?"

How do you get the most of parent-teacher conferences? What questions yield the most information? And how much do you share with your child afterward?

Toy Recalls: Aqua Dots Beads ... Pull-Back Action Toy Cars ... Toy Robot ... Dizzy Ducks Music Box ... Winnie-the-Pooh Spinning Top ... Duck Family Collectable Toy ... Dragster and Funny Car ... Big Red Wagons

By Stacey Garfinkle |  November 8, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers , Teens , Tweens
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Comments


conferences are very dependent on the quality of the teacher. Our experience last year was awful. The times assigned were all between 5 and 9pm and ours was 8:45 pm ie the last of the day, so the teacher was tired and cranky. Our fifth grader, new to the school after a long-distance move (the first of her life) was getting good grades and still adjusting to the new school. The teacher spent the ENTIRE 15 minutes complaining about her pencil grip and how "odd" he found it. I asked, is her writing legible? yes. Are her assignments completed on time? yes. So what's the problem? He said, "It's painful for me to watch her write." I said, then stop looking. That was 15 wasted minutes in which my husband and I learned nothing about our child, but a fair amount about the teacher, who turned out to be a poster-child for burnout.

Posted by: srsrhodes | November 8, 2007 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Teachers are at school everyday, so you shouldn't hesitate to set up an additional informal meeting because 15 minutes is certainly not enough time. Many teachers communicate with parents via email, too. Think of yourself as the customer: Remember that it's your kid and the teacher/school are providing a service.

Posted by: Liz | November 8, 2007 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Good lord, these conferences aren't job interviews. Our conferences basically consist of the teacher showing us some representative work and we discuss strengths and weaknesses. We ask the teacher if there are things we can do to help develop weaker areas and make suggestions for the teacher based on our experience with the child. We establish routes of communication in the event we need to talk again (usually email), thank each other and leave. Some of the teachers have been better than others but none have been bad. We're pretty honest with our daughter (she's nine)... "Ms. so and so thinks you're a great reader and she likes how you help this other kid, but she's noticed that you have trouble staying on task and we talked about ways to help you with that". The key to talking to your kid is to be honest but positive: the teacher wants to help you develop a skill or be ready for the next grade, not the teacher hates the way you dawdle.

Posted by: AngelaA | November 8, 2007 8:29 AM | Report abuse

I echo Liz's comment about the email. I use it a lot to ask specific questions about assignments and other issues my child raises at home. The teachers at our school usually send same-day replies with paragraphs of info on the topic. It's great resource. I find the conference helpful to get the big picture info on how my daughter is doing at school, what the teacher is focusing on in determining grades. One thing I routinely ask is how my daughter's grades and behavior match up to her peers. It may seem alarmingly to see your child get mostly Satisfactory or Needs Improvement and just a few, or even no, Outstandings in subjects and only a few or even no Independents for behavior (not sure if all schools do this but Mont. County uses this). But if you hear from the teacher that only 3-4 kids out of 24 get even close to all Os or all Is, then you can rest easy knowing your child is doing just fine. The nice thing about elementary school, in my view, is that this is the time where you don't have to worry about the grades per se but can use them productively to tell you whether your child learning as much as s/he can; and, whether they are developing good habits. In later grades, like HS, they will need those to get into college. But for now, a C or an "N" for needs improvement, can just be information for you and your child that tells you s/he needs a little extra help with this subject. Remember that your child's teacher likely wants your child to succeed as much as you do and is your ally in this effort. I also always make sure to thank the teacher for his/her hard work and give specific feedback on things my child is enjoying about the class.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | November 8, 2007 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Forty minutes is a really long time for a parent-teacher conference, unless your kid is the only one in the class (that long a conference would require 16 hours for a class of 25.) If you need that much time because you have serious concerns, schedule a separate conference after school and consider meeting with all your child's teachers (specials, middle school team, etc.) at once.

These conferences are intended only to open communication. For most well-adjusted students, it's an opportunity for parents to see the physical environment and let the teacher know they're interested. In truth, they're a leftover habit from the days before e-mail and cellphones when teachers couldn't be reached during the day and parents weren't quite so tuned in to their children's every activity.

Posted by: onceateacher | November 8, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

I communicate regularly with my children's teachers by e-mail. I even did this once my oldest was in high school because he was on medication for a spinal cord injury. It's been my experience that teachers LOVE e-mail because it's convenient AND it leaves a paper trail for them for accountability.
One of the first things I do when I have a face-to-face conference is assure the teacher that I'm here to support her in her role as an educator.

Posted by: momof3boys | November 8, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Two comments immeidiately come to mind:
1) I totally agree with the regular communication theory. There is no reason why the conference has to be the only time you find out how your child is doing. Most teachers will get back to you quickly via email, many are willing to meet with you at other times too (generally before or after school).
2) Don't worry about HS - there are no conferences unless you want one... or your kid is in serious trouble. One step at a time!

And one more thing - don't stress too much about this; if your kid had significant issues, the teacher would have called you way before now.

Posted by: Loren | November 8, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

perfectly said once a teacher- and as for the writer, chill out some- if you need more time just ask; as for the burned out teacher, that is a whole 'nuther can of worms- eek, what to do?

Posted by: dave c | November 8, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I love that, "if you need more time, just ask." Well how about getting more time after work, let's say 6pm? My son's teacher told me straight to my face that he only had time between 3:30-4pm and no other times. Ummm... great, so I've spent every day of my leave this year on dentist appointments, doctor appointments, covering for half days and non-holidays like Columbus Day and now I have to take even more time off? I'm trying the email every day solution, but it's still inaccurate. I'm still getting stories where my kid says one thing and the teacher another. I'm burnt out from having my entire year's vacation days used up by school days and not getting to go to the beach this year because the school is closed. I don't mean to stand here and flail my arms, but jiminy crickets, where are the teachers working 11 hour days in their classroom the weeks I'm working 11 hour days in my office?

Posted by: DCer | November 8, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

DCer, demanding longer, harder hours from teachers just so you can spend more time at the beach is laughable.

Hahahahahahah. Haw! Haw! Haw! Hahahahahahaha!

The teachers give daily evaluations of your child, or at least weekly, by the material and tests they send home. Any involved parent that isn't functionally illiterate (like I am), should have a good idea of how their child is performing in school without a conference. I also firmly believe that the parents, and the parents alone, should be the greatest evaluators of the progress made by their kids as they grow up and mature as human beings. Teachers and the education system can help, but the parent is ultimately in charge.

Posted by: DandyLion | November 8, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

DCer-Teacher's get paid comparable less then a lot of office professionals. But have you considered some Federal holidays (like Veteran's day) that a lot of businesses get off? I made my daughter's progress meeting on next Monday. School is in session and we are off from work. Also she was willing to schedule an hour for the meeting. Of course preschools are much smaller class sizes. But the teacher was willing to meet at noon (her lunch hour) and I was very appreciative. Just a suggestion. Of course not every parent can come on Veteran's Day but at least a few can slip in. Also teacher is very responsive on email. The other thing for elementary school students is to have a communications notebook. It is just a spiral or composition book that the kid carries to class and home each day. The teacher can write notes and you can write notes. If just a few parents prefer old fashion pen and paper, it is a way for the teacher to communicate back and forth on a regular basis. Although I think most parents and teachers prefer email, there is still a way for the tech novice to keep in touch.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 8, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

DCer, it's YOUR choice to work 11 hour days. So just because you do every one else has to? Pretty self-centered view if you ask me.

Maybe the teacher's later times were taken by other parents already and 3:30 - 4:00 WAS the only open time he had.

Most teachers I've seen put in obscene hours and they're doing it for YOUR kid. Try appreciating what they do.

Or maybe you have a dud teacher this year, but don't punish the rest for this actions.

Posted by: wow | November 8, 2007 10:46 AM | Report abuse

DCer -- why does it have to be in the afternoon? Why not before school? Surely the teacher is there before the class?

Posted by: WDC 21113 | November 8, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

How well a child does in school these days seems to depend largely on parental involvement so that I feel I'm the one being judged at parent-teacher conferences! Homework every night at the elementary level, on top of finding time for the longer range assignments. Kids don't have those time management skills - and not all parents do either. Then there's the weekends spent doing research and display boards that little kids couldn't possibly do without parental help. How do they know what the kids can do on their own with all this parental involvement? How many kids are school failures by 2nd grade because their parents don't take time to make them do homework?
I need a darn Valium before my parent-teacher conference.

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 8, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Good grief. Get a life. How do you have time for anything else with the obsessing you do about something as simple as a KINDERGARTEN conference?

Also, if you're worried about 15 minutes being not enough time to talk to the teacher, maybe that should be a clue that you aren't spending enough time (if any) at the school in between conference times. Take your child to school once in awhile, greet the teacher, pick him up after school and have a quick conversation about the day. Spend some time helping in the classroom so you'll understand the lingo and see what your child is doing.

You're right - 15 minutes isn't enough. But I'm not sure what you expect out of the poor teacher. If you want more time and more of an understanding of how your child is doing, you have to put out an effort.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Stacy - this can't be your first parent-teacher conference! I agree with most of the posters that you should ALREADY be in regular communication with your child's teacher. You should pretty much have a handle on what is going on. You basically want to see test scores (in school tests) and make sure your child gets along with others and listens well. I am talking elementary school, of course. I saw my children's testing evaluations and got an explanation of those and spent the rest of the time talking to the teacher about what I could do to enrich my child.

DCer - if you cannot get to school (and I agree with the other posters about your priorities), then call the teacher during the times she's available. I do not expect my children's teachers to be available in the evening unless it is an emergency. I go before school to talk with the teacher as after school is not possible for me as well. I take my lunch and go to my child's school and have lunch with him or her. I see what's going on. I can do this and work as well. Granted, I don't work more than 15 minutes away from the school, but still! Most of the parents in my children's classes work and the children who have no problems in class (for the most part) are the children's parents who come in and are visible. Even one hour a month is important.

Posted by: Andrea | November 8, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Posted by Liz @ November 8, 2007 08:09 AM:

"Teachers are at school everyday, so you shouldn't hesitate to set up an additional informal meeting because 15 minutes is certainly not enough time. Many teachers communicate with parents via email, too. Think of yourself as the customer: Remember that it's your kid and the teacher/school are providing a service."

I have to agree with Liz on this. Days for assigned parent teacher conferences are terrible days for good communication between parents and teachers. They are more often than not overscheduled - and I think most teachers would agree with the sentiment that "I never see the parents I really need to see." Finding some other time to meet with the teacher is probably good if you want more detail.

Posted by DCer @ November 8, 2007 09:53 AM:

"I don't mean to stand here and flail my arms, but jiminy crickets, where are the teachers working 11 hour days in their classroom the weeks I'm working 11 hour days in my office?"

I hear this a lot from parents, but honestly I think that the issue of teacher workload is entirely teacher and day dependant. There are certainly teachers who leave right when school ends, and have long summer vacations. Yet, for every teacher like this I have encountered, there are two that stay at school three or four hours after, take work home, plan detailed lessons, teach summer school, and/or spend time in summer courses catching up on trends and research in education. Teachers, of course, fall somewhere on the spectrum as do we all.

So I guess the answer to this question is that yes these teachers exist, in large numbers, and I'm sorry to hear you haven't had the pleasure of having one for your child.

Posted by: David S | November 8, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

DCer: you're an incredibly selfish, self-centered, ungrateful person, aren't you?

Does it ever occur to you that perhaps the teacher has been there since 7:00 a.m. with a 15 minute lunch break, needs to leave at 4:00 to take his own child to soccer practice, then go home and have dinner, bathe his child (because we wouldn't want other kids to mock him for being dirty, you know), help his child with homework, and get him in bed by 8:00 (so the "you're a bad parent" police don't come after him) so he can spend 2 hours grading papers and doing his lesson plans for the day of school?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Posted by DandyLion @ November 8, 2007 10:34 AM:

"The teachers give daily evaluations of your child, or at least weekly, by the material and tests they send home. Any involved parent that isn't functionally illiterate (like I am), should have a good idea of how their child is performing in school without a conference. I also firmly believe that the parents, and the parents alone, should be the greatest evaluators of the progress made by their kids as they grow up and mature as human beings. Teachers and the education system can help, but the parent is ultimately in charge."

While I generally believe that grades should reflect the whole of a child's learning experience - I must disagree in this. Grades can tell you about academic progress, but do not generally tell you anything about your child's behavior, or any other number of things a parent might want to know.

After all, good grades can also be a sign that your child is not challenged in their current environment, something that contact with the teacher could tell you. I totally agree that keeping track of student assignments is important, but there is so much more to school than that.

Posted by: David S | November 8, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

There is no excuse for not keeping up with your child's progress; in most cases the school-scheduled conferences shouldn't be the first time you're finding out things about your kid.

Teachers are people, parents, friends, and family members as you are. They are not your indentured servants, ready to take that phone call (yes, sometimes at home!) 24/7 just because your child scored 8 points fewer on an exam than normal. Yes, it's happened.

Neither helicoptering nor ignoring your child is the way to go. The former will usually produce a kid who's afraid of his own shadow and will be quick to blame anyone and everything for his own lack of accountability; the latter will usually produce a kid who prompts mall curfews---and that's likely the best-case scenario.

Posted by: el grunir | November 8, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

"Does it ever occur to you that perhaps the teacher has been there since 7:00 a.m. with a 15 minute lunch break, needs to leave at 4:00 to take his own child to soccer practice, then go home and have dinner, bathe his child (because we wouldn't want other kids to mock him for being dirty, you know), help his child with homework, and get him in bed by 8:00 (so the "you're a bad parent" police don't come after him) so he can spend 2 hours grading papers and doing his lesson plans for the day of school?"

You mean teachers actually have lives too? They have to juggle work and family? They don't have to be at the beck and call of every whiney parent who's really sad because their beach time is interrupted? Plus, they get no overtime for the whiney parent's 6:00 p.m. conference even though they've been at work since 7:00 a.m.?

Wow, this must come as an utter shock to DCer.

Posted by: Exactly | November 8, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

DCer " Ummm... great, so I've spent every day of my leave this year on dentist appointments, doctor appointments"

You complain about the teacher not willing to work 11 hour days, why not demand that your dentist & doctor provide late hours then you wouldn't have to take time out for routine visits.

Posted by: John M | November 8, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

DCer " Ummm... great, so I've spent every day of my leave this year on dentist appointments, doctor appointments"

You complain about the teacher not willing to work 11 hour days, why not demand that your dentist & doctor provide late hours then you wouldn't have to take time out for routine visits.
----

Sorry, I thought by bringing it up I was complaining about them too.

Posted by: DCer | November 8, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

You mean teachers actually have lives too? They have to juggle work and family? They don't have to be at the beck and call of every whiney parent who's really sad because their beach time is interrupted? Plus, they get no overtime for the whiney parent's 6:00 p.m. conference even though they've been at work since 7:00 a.m.?

Wow, this must come as an utter shock to DCer.
----

HA! a teacher at school at 7am! Oh yeah, that's rich! I'd LOVE a 7am appointment. Get back to reality! 7am appointment would be gladly accepted, but I've been at the playground when his teacher drives up and parks at 8:30.

Apology accepted in advance.

Posted by: DCer | November 8, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

DCer, demanding longer, harder hours from teachers just so you can spend more time at the beach is laughable.
---

If that's what I wrote it would be laughable, but I didn't say that, so grow up.

you have succumbed to the straw man argument logical fallacy:
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/straw%20man

apologies accepted in advance.

Posted by: DCer | November 8, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

The teachers give daily evaluations of your child, or at least weekly, by the material and tests they send home.
----


teachers don't do this. try again. If they sent things home daily we wouldn't be complaining. My son's teacher held 100% of his classwork until the conference and it sucked!

Come back to reality and you'll see why people are complaining. Jeez, you act like it's all so simple... but you're so far from reality it ain't funny.

Posted by: DCer | November 8, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

It makes sense that you would have this conversation at the begining of the school year to set expectations about frequency of discussions, availability, conference schedule, what will be discussed then, what you should bring up outside of the conferences and what can wait. It seems that if you're needs aren't being met, you'd manage the situation in a way that's respectful to both the teacher's and your needs.

If a teacher holds work back until the conference and that doesn't work for you, have a discussion. If that doesn't get results and the issue is important to you, escalate.

Posted by: RG | November 8, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I guess I'm in the minority here. My 3 kids (grades 2, 4 & 6) have had all wonderful teachers who have answered all of my emails & returned phone calls even to answer rather mundane questions. I was unavailable during the teacher conference day, and all 3 teachers scheduled conferences at other mutually agreed upon times - 8am, 3:30 and one over his lunch break. In the past, I've even had phone conferences with teachers after all of our children are in bed! (We agreed through email of a 9:30 call time.) If you have concerns, write a list and send it to the teacher ahead of time! They are much better able to answer your questions if given time to mull them over. If you think of teachers as partners in your child's education then you are both working toward the same goal of giving your child the best possible education. If you assume an "us against them" position, your child will be the one to suffer.

Posted by: momof3 | November 8, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

How timely, as I had my p/t conference this morning! 15 minutes was enough time to glace at the classroom, meet the teacher one-on-one, see some writing samples and get an idea of how my child interacts in class. 40 minutes would have been excruiatingly long! Now, this is for my child who glides effortlessly through school.

my older child's p/t conference is Monday, however he's not a 'glider', so I have already had numerous conversations with his teachers via email. Email has been great for our school! It's only been the last two years that they have really pushed that as the best communication tool to use. All the teachers are very timely in responding. No more waiting until 3:00 for the return call.

I agree that if your child is having issues, the p/t conference should not be the first time you are communicating with the teacher.

Posted by: prarie dog | November 8, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"You mean teachers actually have lives too? They have to juggle work and family? They don't have to be at the beck and call of every whiney parent who's really sad because their beach time is interrupted? Plus, they get no overtime for the whiney parent's 6:00 p.m. conference even though they've been at work since 7:00 a.m.?

Wow, this must come as an utter shock to DCer.
----

HA! a teacher at school at 7am! Oh yeah, that's rich! I'd LOVE a 7am appointment. Get back to reality! 7am appointment would be gladly accepted, but I've been at the playground when his teacher drives up and parks at 8:30.

Apology accepted in advance."

Pretty convenient to leave out the other arguments. So I'll bite. He gets there at 8:30, puts up with your kid and 20 others until 3:00. Meets with whiney parents until 6:00 when you finally make it (after your hard hard day). So he probably won't actually leave work until 7:00; factor in commuting time and he gets home to his family between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. So there you go, he met your 11-hour day criteria!!!

And trust me, no one owes you an apology. You're the one who's floating in your own "reality" -- and it's called entitlement.

Posted by: Exactly | November 8, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

And trust me, no one owes you an apology. You're the one who's floating in your own "reality" -- and it's called entitlement.
----

entitlement to exactly what I pay for and not a penny more, you are correct!

It wasn't "convenient" to leave out other arguments, I never expected people would fly off into fantasy worlds when trying to denigrate my casual post.

It's wonderful that other people have such warm and fuzzy teachers, but my son's teacher has been pushing us and promising us and now, 8 weeks into school, we've thrown up our hands and said, "enough!" Sense the frustration?

I accept your convoluted apology.

Posted by: DCer | November 8, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

DCer may well be having the experience he/she has described, but it isn't a universal truth that all teachers work exactly as this one does. Most reasonable teachers (and believe it or not, that covers most teachers) will work with a parent to arrange a face-to-face conference if the scheduled ones do not work for the parent. Whether it be an early morning or late afternoon meeting, or even an evening one if all else fails, a meeting can usually be arranged.

Having been a teacher myself, I will admit that there are some teachers who give the rest of the profession some serious black marks that are hard to erase. I'm not saying that DCer shouldn't be a bit less self-centered and self-righteous, but it very well could be that the teacher in question is not willing (or even able, for reasons stated by another poster) to work outside of the contract requirements for being on the premises.

E-mail is a wonderful option that was not available when I was in the classroom. I would have loved to have had that option, and I know that most teachers today are very glad to have it available to them. This is where parents and teachers can meet in a virtual way at a time that works for both.

Posted by: Lynne | November 8, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I mean, I still have parents try to tell me teachers work a full year despite the fact that neither our teacher nor our teacher's aide worked over the summer and he's talked about his European trip to everyone who would listen! The facts are there, the teachers get 6 weeks off in July and August, but some parents still fail to "get it" and float some weird theory about them working year round or working as many hours as other jobs or the like.

What's frustrating is the attempt to make me look like a crank for bringing up the 6 weeks off as if I'm being angry about it. I'm not, but with those 6 weeks of no work comes the requirement to work at night during the months they do work. Life is full of trade-offs and compromises and this year, I have someone who wants me to concede every issue without negotiation. I am taking 100% of my vacation time watching my kids, it shouldn't be an issue for them to work 12 full weeks of nights to compensate for their 6 weeks of vacation.

It's frustrating when people post nonsense to a parenting board like this like, you know, "the teacher sends homework home every day." The youngest grades don't get homework or tests, but we do get teacher conferences. So yes, my son's teacher held back all the halloween crafts, letter pages, and drawings until this week. Why? No real explanation, but I am rightfully PO'd.

Wouldn't you be?

Posted by: DCer | November 8, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse

DCer,

Maybe it's a DC thing. My son's school had a pt conferences but 'forgot' to send us a notice. Granted he's only in pre-K but we would like to know how he is doing. There is no email for the teachers in the school. I have taken to leaving notes in his homework folder as my means of communication.

And I too see many teachers pulling up into the parking lot when I am walking my son in at 8:30am.

Posted by: 2xmami | November 8, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

DCer, teachers do get six to eight weeks off in the summer, but that is time off from active teaching, not time off period. Most (and I say most, because there are exceptions) teachers either work another job during the summer to cover that time with no income, or they are going to school to pursue and advanced degree or simply to obtain the required credits to keep their certification. Some have money from family sources and don't need to work during that time and chose not to do so. For each teacher there is a story, so one size does not fit all.

I can sense your frustration and I think you do have some valid reasons for it, particularly with regard to the teacher holding back all of the work, including the Halloween art work (!) until a November conference. That almost sounds like a relatively new and inexperienced teacher rather than one who has been "seasoned" by a few years in the classroom.

You might want to try talking (calmly and unemotionally, though that might be difficult) with the teacher about how you can get more of what you need while not stripping him of his sense of dignity and respect as a professional. That won't help either of you.

Posted by: Lynne | November 8, 2007 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I should have proofread. I meant to say: to pursue an advanced degree....

Posted by: Lynne | November 8, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

DCer doesn't want a solution, she just wants to complain. Nothing will ever be good enough for her.

"it shouldn't be an issue for them to work 12 full weeks of nights to compensate for their 6 weeks of vacation."

You really don't get it do you? They are not CONTRACTED to work ANY nights. That's the point people are trying to get into your skull. Most of them do it anyway because they are dedicated to their work. In addition to taking work home. Without overtime.

I have many relatives who are teachers, and parents like you are always the topic of conversation at the dinner table. It's never enough and your child can do no wrong. Teachers aren't required to bend over backwards for you. Get over yourself.

If you want your summers off get your teaching degree. Then you can show all the slackers how it should be done.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I guess my argument is that teachers make significantly less then other type professionals. Why should they work 12 hours a day and have 5 of them non contracted time? The reason professionals work long hours, is because they are supposably compensated by salaries and benefits. If teaching is so easy, wouldn't more people choose to do it? Frankly, it sounds like a relatively thankless job a lot of days (sort of like parenting can be some days). I also don't see why you need all your vacation time for a few teacher work days and doctor's appointments. Most professionals get 2-3 weeks vacation, some personal sick time and federal holidays. I know a lot of doctors and dentists who are open on a lot of those minor federal holidays. Book some of your routine health care needs on those days. Pay a babysitter for teacher work days. You know about them in advance. I don't know about DC about a lot of doctors and dentists are open after work hours and weekends in VA. Sorry your kid's teacher is a dud. But most teachers seem to do a pretty good job and frankly I don't think they should have to work 50 hour weeks on their salary.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 8, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Beautiful foamgnome, but she just isn't getting it.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

These posts from DCer and others just go to show you how varied people's experiences can be. I get boatloads of worksheets coming home from school and send boatloads back as completed homework. I'm not sure what my younger DD's teacher can tell me about her academic strengths and weaknesses that I don't already know from spending an hour a day plus getting her to do her homework! I expect little besides an earful about how she doesn't like worksheets!

Posted by: anne. | November 8, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I was actually curious about some of this my teacher leaves the minute the bell rings stuff that is posted on this board. So when I went to pick my kid up at 3:45 (the time the preschool lets out) the parking lot of the elementary school was still full. This on Fridays. Grades K-6 lets out at 3:05. So the majority of teachers are still there 40 minutes after student dissmal on a Friday. Try my government office at 5PM on Friday. Just about no one is there.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 8, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I teach at a college and I had assumed that public school teachers were paid on the same basis as I am: I'm contracted for 9 months of work, but it's paid out over 12 months. If I teach summer school, I am paid extra for doing so because I'm not contracted to work over the summer. Am I mistaken about this?

All of my kid's teachers have sent a sea of work home with them on a regular basis, and I'm thinking that DCer's experience may be unique to that school or teacher.

Posted by: AngelaA | November 8, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I think in certain school districts, you are contracted for 10 months or so and you can choose to be paid in 10 months or over 12 months. But being paid over 12 months just means your spreading your 10 month salary over the full year. Your not getting paid extra for not working for the school district in the summer.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I have friend who works for a county district in the Tampa area and she opts for the summer pay at once, but then has to really budget until August when school starts again.

I also have friends/relatives who teach on Long Island and one in NYC who at night and the summer go to college to get their "plus" credits to increase their salaries, otherwise too bad. Some also coach. However, salaries are much, much different on Long Island. There are school districts as opposed to county-wide districts. The friend in Tampa who probably makes half my salary (and I work for a non-profit) and has been at her job longer, has a father who retired several years ago from a Long Island school at a $98,000 a YEAR pension. He was maybe 55 when he retired. Sold the house (when the market was good) and bought in a "retirement" community in FL.

Not all areas are the same I guess is my point.

DCer -- have you tried to contact the principal if things are so bad?

Posted by: WDC 21113 | November 8, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

For us, parent teacher conferences are where we get our kids report cards. The teacher walks us through the grades and alerts us to any new issues. Nothing on it will be a surprise because we get a weekly folder of all graded work. We also email regularly about issues and progress. It is just a nice opportunity to speak face-to-face and for parents who haven't already met the teacher to do so.

Posted by: Mom of 5 | November 8, 2007 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Everything is regionally. I grew up on LI and trust me the teacher's were middle class for the area. Not rich. It takes a fair amount of money to live there. It isn't like living in the middle of Montana. In most areas of the country, teacher salaries seem to put them some where in the middle class. Of course everyone has the option of getting a large base pay and retiring some place cheaper. Teacher benefits, in general, are pretty good. I think most have some pretty good pensions. Makes up for the years of harrassment.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

"...shouldn't be an issue for them to work 12 full weeks of nights to compensate for their 6 weeks of vacation."

That's a pretty silly argument. Teacher contracts do not state that they have to work nights in order to compensate for their 6 weeks of summer vacation, anymore than I have to work nights to compensate for my 6 weeks of annual leave. My son is in 2nd grade. He has been doing homework since kindergarten. I regularly communicate with the teachers via email, and they have always been responsive. If I have to meet with them, I go during their schedule. After all, as a parent, that is what I should do. Teachers have lives and schedules, and while they try to be flexible, they won't be able to please every Tom, Dick, and Harry who wants to be accomodated. It is not unreasonable for parents to see them during normal school hours, or soon before or after school. People who have kids need to realize that they are the ones who need to adjust to their kids needs, because after all, they are the parents.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

As someone who used to take ECE to teach pre-school, I can say that there are a lot of MESSED UP ideas about a teacher's duty to their students, up to and including schools ordering teachers to give their students their home phone numbers so the teacher can be available 24/7 to the students. Teachers do ostensibly have lives and family of their own.

As a teacher in a private school, I can say that I do not even get Veteran's Day off. I don't get any holidays off except Thanksgiving and Christmas (THIS year). Between Christmas and New Year's, we are open to accommodate the parents who still have to work. We go from spring session to summer session without missing a beat, and summer session is 9 hours long for the kids. When I wanted a week off for my wedding last year, it was a HUGE deal.

As for parents:
Even though teachers at my school do not speak to the parents in general, I have still had the pleasure of dealing with parents who truly do not understand that their children are the ones at fault. I had one parent insist to my principal that his son does not lie. This was put to rest quite quickly with documentation and common sense.

The best thing my school does is put together "books" of each child's work for the week, with a progress report and teacher's comments stapled to the front. Unfortunately, this does become less effective as the kids grow older and learn that they can usually get away with "forgetting" to bring their books home.

My favorite parents are the ones that are very involved and invested in their child's education. A few parents seem to have given up on their child being an academic and tell the kids its OK to blow of X,Y, and Z homework assignments because they have to focus on dance/art/instrument.

Posted by: Kat | November 9, 2007 3:47 AM | Report abuse

DCer

How old is your son? Kindergarten age? If so, or even if he's 1st or 2nd grade, I would hesitate to start bashing the entire teaching profession and making blanket statements when you have such little real experience on the subject.

If you're dissatisfied with the attitude and performance of the teacher, I would suggest two things:

1. Talk to the principal and tell her your concerns. This is assuming that you have truly made an effort to talk to the teacher about your concerns, because it isn't fair to just b**ch about the teacher behind their back.

2. Find out if the teacher needs volunteer help. If you can't provide that volunteer help because of your work hours, maybe you could be a volunteer coordinator for the classroom. Sending home schoolwork takes time, and some teachers hold onto the work because they simply don't have enough hours in the day to do it. A volunteer coming in weekly and collating the papers and putting them in cubbys or folders or backpacks or whatever for the kids to take home is a HUGE help to teachers.

Posted by: fake99 | November 9, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I find the issue of teacher compensation very interesting. I read in a Sun article about 18m ago that teachers in the maryland area start at about $40 000 a year and go as high as $80 000. $40 000 is not a high salary but it's higher than I've ever made in my life, personally. In addition, I understand that state teachers get a pension and their healthcare is paid for when they retire. Unlike private companies, these benefits cannot be taken away from them because the state cannot renege on its promises the way a company can. I have to say that I find the idea of a pension and health insurance is a really nice perk, and one that most private employees don't get these days. Most of us take 15% of our salaries off the top for our 401Ks and hope we will have enough to retire on. We'll also have to fund our own retiree healthcare, at whatever crazy rate is in effect in 30 years. So I have to say I am quite envious of teacher compensation and am thinking of belatedly becoming a teacher. In regards to this discussion, and the general opinion that teachers don't get paid enough to justify spending hours after school working with parents or correcting homework, it seems to me that they really get paid fairly well. Also, it's primarily in jobs paid hourly that the idea of overtime is relevant, whereas professionals are expected to do whatever the job requires, even if it requires work outside of official worktime. My husband certainly doesn't get paid extra for his many hours of "overtime" work, nor for his 6 burdensome weeks of international travel each year, because he falls into the category of worker called a "professional".

Posted by: m | November 12, 2007 11:39 PM | Report abuse

DCer has some valid complaints but IMO has some steps to take before going postal.

1. Document if you can when the teacher arrives at school on a regular basis. Most schools require the teachers be in the building at least 15 minutes on either side of when the kids are allowed in (unless there is a before & after-care program). In my brother's school district, the teachers are contractually required to be in the building 7:30-3:15, with the school day at 7:45-3:00. In your case, the contract may just require a certain number of hours per day and the teacher may choose to stay 30 minutes after school instead of arriving 15 minutes early. The principal cannot force a teacher to stay extra, but if teacher is shaving time regularly, this is something the principal needs to know when you bring the not-meeting thing to his or her attention. (Save it as a last resort,though, because the principal does not want to get into a labor dispute.)

2. If you are in a job with tight time requirements (i.e., no flex time and little time off - I've been there and totally get this), send a note to the teacher that explains this in a nonconfrontational way. Give 3 dates and times that work well for you and ask if any of these work for the teacher. Ask if a teleconference would work better. Wash, rinse, repeat. After that, take it to the principal.

3. Be very specific about what you want to address, i.e., my child doesn't seem to understand how to subtract 2-digit numbers very well; or, we think he might be dyslexic; or, our computer is not functioning well right now and we can't always check the homework website from the library; or we think she's having some issues with another child. This may not require 15 minutes but just a quick phone call, which you may be able to arrange without leaving work (assuming you can take personal calls while at work). Also ask about effective channels of communication if there isn't a standard school policy. My brother's school system uses e-mail for almost everything, which sucks if you don't have access to e-mail regularly.

4. Above all, keep in mind that sometimes your kid gets stuck with a nonoptimal teacher. This teacher might be great for most children, just not for your kid. Or maybe the teacher is fine with your kid but you have a personality clash with him or her. (This has happened to me once or twice.) Do the best you can to mitigate the effects and make a polite pest of yourself at the school. It might be that there are more parents in the same boat than you think, and by being persistent you might get some changes through.

Just generally, many non-teachers think of the summertime as vacation time for the teachers. It is UNPAID vacation time, which also must be used in many circumstances to fulfill professional requirements needed to maintain certification or win promotion to higher pay grades. As pointed out above, teachers can opt to divide their pay so that they receive paychecks throughout the year. Not all that long ago (i.e., the 1950s and 1960s), many teachers were paid a lump sum in October. I think back then it was a lot more clear exactly what teachers were paid for! As for the guaranteed pensions and health benefits for retirees, we have to remember that these are at the mercy of the state legislature. Many states are discovering that it's gotten to be very expensive to take care of the teachers who have retired since 1980 and are retconning the plans in ways that are not very nice. I'm sure none of us would like to retire and find out 10 years afterwards that suddenly the promises are evaporating like the morning dew!

Posted by: notateacher | November 20, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

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