Tuesday, March 10, 2009

SOLSC Day 10

I've taught sixth grade English my entire career, and in our district that's the first year of middle school. We know that the transition from elementary school can be rocky for students and parents alike, and I think we try hard to make it as smooth as possible. The most common bump in the road is when a student has difficulty negotiating the organizational demands of seven subjects with seven different teachers. It's only to be expected.

A parent-teacher conference that includes the student is usually one of the interventions we use, and so, I've been in a lot those over the last 15 years. They can be emotional. Some parents are very defensive; they feel like they are in trouble. Others have been openly hostile toward us; some are furious at their children, and make a show of scolding and yelling; most are disappointed, but some are surprised, or frustrated, or all the way at their rope's end. Sometimes there are tears, usually from the student, but every now and then, the parents cry, too.

We had a marathon parent conference today: five teachers, one dad, 90 minutes. His son was present for the second half. This one started out with Dad pretty sure that the D's on the progress report were our fault or our error, but then it followed a narrative arc where his son's inattentativeness, irresponsiblity, and miscommunication were revealed. It ended with the student setting three goals for himself and the promise of a weekly phone report from school to Dad. We were all on the same side, working together to support the student and help him to be more successful. Nobody cried, and on the way out, the father turned to his son and, placing his huge hands on either side of the boy's head, pulled him close. They were forehead to forehead and eye to eye.

"You're still a good boy," he told him. It was impossible to disagree.


  1. Wow, Tracey! That last line really caught me right in the throat.


  2. Oh, wow! I love the ending...I can see this father and son interacting. Very good slice!

  3. What a great conference, I loved the father's reaction. It is so important that kids know their parents love is unconditional.

  4. I have to think that the father's face to face with his son in the end made it all worth the 90 minutes. What a great moment.

  5. That's such a great story!!! - KT

  6. Wow. That 90 minutes must have been so difficult for all of you. I'm impressed to hear how well it went.