When Parents Aren’t Impressed (Enough)

Posted: March 30, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about conferences.

We had our “spring” parent-teacher conferences a few weeks ago. I say “spring” because it was weeks ago and the temperature is still in the 40’s this week, but I digress. One of the pieces of work I shared with parents was the most recent essay each of my students had written. This meant parents saw the planning sheet/graphic organizer that their student filled in, my comments on it, the first draft, my comments on that, and the final draft. All but the planning was completed in school. For most students we focused on the final draft and changes that were made between drafts.  For many students this essay was easily the best work to date.

On the Great Barrier Reef
For one student in particular in not only represented the best thing written this year, but exponential growth. This was not a “good for so-and-so” essay, it was good, period. The student wrote the essay in a reasonable amount of time and made significant edits after reading my comments. I was so proud for this student, and excited to share this with the parents. However, the parents were not that excited. They breezed on by it. I tried again to stress the independence, the change from earlier in the year, the original ideas. No luck.

To be fair, we had many things to discuss, but I couldn’t help feeling they missed a chance to tell their child how impressive this work was. That made me wonder if I had been too impressed. I started to second-guess my response. Was I wearing  my rose-colored glasses again?

I sent the essay to the student’s teacher from last year and the learning coordinator who also is familiar with the student’s work. This time, I got the reaction I wanted, or maybe somehow needed. They were impressed.

Sometimes we all need some validation.

(Creative Commons flickr photo by Paul Holloway)

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Comments
  1. Maggie says:

    One of the best bits of advice I ever heard a “parenting expert” give a theater full of parents was – let your kid hear you brag about them to someone… say something concrete, true and wonderful to someone else about your child in earshot of them every now and again. I ruminate on that counsel a lot as I think about extrinsic vs. intrinsic rewards and you know where I come down? From time to time it is not harmful and feels good for kids to be validated. Your post extends that – it is good for us all to be acknowledged and celebrated. Not all the time but just now and again… it doesn’t derail intrinsic motivation and may, in fact, fuel it. Hopefully during that conference the parents latched on to something that is a shared value that they can celebrate in their child and, who knows, maybe the teacher from last year or the learning coordinator will share that you showed the stellar work to them and they let the student know they were really impressed…. the celebration will come from somewhere for the student… and, in turn, for you, too.

  2. mseiteljorg says:

    Maggie,
    Another wise educator was just recently talking about that same advice. I swear! I agree that some celebration is a good thing. And, a second best option to what you and the “expert” suggest probably would be for the student to hear me celebrate the work in front of the parents.

    I think the parents were not completely unimpressed. And, I have made sure to give specific feedback as to the successes I saw in the writing to the student, which produced a big grin. As to the recognition going beyond the student, I am not really concerned with that. As a teacher in a self-contained classroom, it is sometimes hard to keep perspective on what is quality work and what is just better than it used to be. I find it helpful to have another point of view as I want to give as clear and detailed feedback as I can to both parent and student.

    Once again, thanks for your comments.

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