In reflecting on what I do well and not so well, I have been thinking that I give the kind of conference that I want to get as a parent. I feel like I am following the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Often that works, but sometimes it doesn’t. The problem is it assumes both parties would want the same thing. (I’ve written about the dangers of assuming before.) What if I’m giving the type conference I would like to get, but not the type of conference that the parent in front of me wants? Now the golden rule starts to lose its golden glow.
We had a speaker at school several years ago who talked about just this idea. (I cannot remember his name or I would give credit. I will ask around.) He referred to the need for the platinum rule: Do unto others, as they would have you do unto them. I think this really applies to my situation.
I like to think that I fall in the happy middle between an “everything is rosy” and an “all your faults in your face” sort of person when it comes to conferences. I have two young kids myself and I have to say I question the teacher’s knowledge of my kids if it’s all hearts and rainbows. Don’t get me wrong—I have nice kids. They are also human, and I like to hear about them as such. It reassures me that the teacher knows them and, honestly, knows kids. My personal kids are so far very different as learners and we are already noticing how different their conferences are. However, they are still pretty young and there just isn’t a lot of academic pressure happening yet.
In my classroom, I work hard to develop a class climate that allows for us as a group to be relatively open about our minor struggles and the fact that there are things some of us have to work more on depending on who we are. It’s just the luck of the draw. By the time kids are 10, they know enough to know that I would be lying to suggest otherwise. I have found that students really respond well to this message. I often see the relief on their faces when I say out loud that it doesn’t seem fair that you sometimes or a lot of times have to work harder than someone else, but that it might be true. Finally someone is saying what they have been noticing. It’s very validating for many. This means that before we start a writing assignment I remind everyone about run-on sentences and I very obviously make eye contact and smile at the prime offenders. It means that as we are working on math I might call across the room and ask someone if he or she is being neat since we all are aware that this is an issue for this person. I keep it to that level of “issues” but I just find it so much better for everyone than being secretive about it.
All this is to say that I am giving a conference that comes out of that context—me as a parent and teacher. However, when the parents come into the room for the conference, I have to remember that they are foreigners, no matter their place of birth. They haven’t been with us developing this common culture; they haven’t witnessed their child being part of this open learning community. And, they may not want the same things out of a conference that I do. The vast majority of the time, I think it’s been a pretty good fit, but not always.
Time to upgrade to platinum.
(Photo by Paula Rey used under Creative Commons share-alike license)