Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Parent-Teacher Conference, or Fine? You Decide.

In Texas, where parents can be fined if their children are excessively truant, a legislator has proposed a law that would fine parents for missing parent-teacher conferences.

I understand the sentiment here, I really do. But the negatives that are addressed in this story--well, I don't have any answers to them.

"Sometimes I think they think we're out to get them. When you're talking about fining and pressing criminal charges, it kind of reflects that attitude."

Carlson said she used to teach at a school in Irving with many children of illegal immigrants.

"They were afraid to come to parent-teacher conferences because they were almost afraid of the authority," of the school district, she said.

Some parents have job or [transportation] issues that make it difficult to keep appointments, Reed said.

"If the idea is to create communication, to send them into the criminal justice system ... is going to do nothing but have a negative impact. It would make parents more scared of the school."

So, what would be a good way to get parents involved in their child's education at school?


Carson said...

Their idea is really foolish. The good ole US of A is a free country; we cannot punish parents for not attending parent teacher conferences through legal means. Their is no point in trying to get a parent to the conference if they really do not care. Furthermore the type of parent that does not want to come to a parent teacher conference is probably degenerate anyway and by fining them we are really only adding to the degeneracy.

Anonymous said...

Great question. I have a few ideas.

1. Have food available. Possibly this would entice the parents, because they may not have to cook that night. lol.

2. Let them know their child would get extra credit for their parents participation? That way, the first parent/teacher conference could be used to show a short movie about what happens to children who grow up without an active role of one or both parent(s) in their education.

3. Try speaking to the parent over the phone. This way, they may feel more comfortable.

4. Possibly have certain parents on one day and have other parents on another? I know it is a lot of work but if it works, look how many children will grow up and not spend a day in jail.

5. Go to their house if they are afraid to come to the school. This way you could get a better understanding of your student's circumstances.

Well, I know most of these suggestions are just pipe dreams, if you'll excuse the expression. :)

I pray you find a solution. Have a great day, and thank you so much for all the hard work you do that no one notices.

Scott McCall said...

before you can get a parent to attend a parent-teacher conference, you would need to sucessfully get the parent to care about their child first....something that doesnt exist much these days

Darren said...

Rosemary: thank you so much!

Scott: you're a bit harsh on parents. I'm sure they care about their kids. Sometimes they have their own issues about school, though.

Rosemary brought up food. The first school at which I taught was in a relatively poor, semi-rural area. We had a barbecue to start off Back To School Night; that way, the parents' first experience of the school year was a good one! I have no evidence, but I can't believe it caused us any harm and I'd like to believe it bought us a lot of goodwill.

Mike said...

I suppose the logic goes like this: Since truancy is illegal, and since parents are responsible for their children, why not hold them criminally liable for failing to come to a school conference, lack of attendance at school obviously being the wellspring from which this line of logic flows?

No, we can't do this. We can't force parents not to smoke dope, or drink to excess, or give their kids booze and drugs. We can't force them to behave honorably, or to hold down jobs, or be decent role models, or even to give much of a damn about their offspring. We can't force them to behave like parents, like adults.

What we must eventually find the courage to do is to say that some kids don't belong in school. The reasons don't matter. Sure, we'll do all we can to help kids in every reasonable way, but whether they've had a tough life, whether their parents are idiots, whether they have drug problems, or whether they're just simply rotten people, at some point, cannot matter. When they keep others from learning, when they make it impossible for teachers to teach, when their presence and behavior pose the real threat of violence, they must be removed. If that makes life hard on them, so be it, for they will bear the responsibility and consequences for their lack of civilized behavior, not those around them. This is equity. This is justice. This is, sadly, unlikely to happen in my lifetime.

Scott McCall said...

i know what i said was harsh, but based on what i'v seen alot recently, it happens more often that u think.

i know a handful of kids who are livin at other relatives/friends places because the parents kicked them out (some legally, some illegally, cause the teenager is under 18). most of the time it's the student's fault, other times, its just cause the parent wants nothing to do with the student, so the student its kicked out, and tries to better themselves without their parents help

allen said...

Since the opponents of charter schools charge that charters "cherry-pick" the kids with active, involved parents the answer's obvious: convert all public schools to charters. Then all schools can indulge in cherry-picking.

Anonymous said...

Since I'm a parent and not a teacher, this comment may be completely ignorant of your side of things... but it seems to me like this would fall in the category of "you can't legislate people into becoming good parents."

Say you create laws that would encourage parents to attend conferences. So the parent is now legally bound to show up for an in-person update on their child's academic progress. Is this particularly helpful if they do not then follow through with a more conscientous style of parenting?

David said...

Modern bureaucratic liberalism seems to believe that virtually every situation is a problem for the police. If people don't do what you want 'em to do, just arrest them.

I'm reminded of the old cartoon, "The beatings will stop until morale improves."

If anyone is seriously interested in addressing this problem, then go with Rosemary's approach. Kick off the year with a picnic. Build a sense of community. Have the parents meet the teachers so that when they (the teachers) call, they won't be strangers.

The quality of leadership in the public schools must be even lower than I thought it was.

Darren said...

Just to be clear, anonymous, I agree with you. And David, too.

Ellen K said...

Since I think I may be the lone Texan that regularly posts here, let me digress. For those of you out of the loop, our public schools are on the front lines of the illegal immigration issue. We are overwhelmed. And quite often children come to us with many issues, not the least of which is lack of English, that cost a great deal of money to address. In addition, we have kids in our schools who may or may not reside in the district that they attend, and who are basically being subsidized by the residents of the district boundaries. Many of the parents who pay the taxes and have children enrolled are at wits end about diseases such as measles, mumps and chicken pox which come up due to parents not exercising due diligence in these issues. These parents are concerned about large classes and schools where the special education money and special services funding outweigh the services for GT or other programs due to sheer numbers. We legally cannot turn someone in that we suspect of being here illegally, but often the quality of the school and the students are negatively impacted because of the ignorance of some parents. I would like to think that no parent would willingly hamper their child's progress, but too often it seems as if nobody is paying attention to the kids at all in some homes. If we could get parents to a conference, maybe we could give them information that would improve their children's lives and ours. Instead we have a failure rate through the roof-with parents and legislators at schools' throats because testing is paramount and affects funding. And when we have students who move every three months, whose parents are so uninterested or uninvolved in their lives, then how else do we reach them? I understand the excuse of "I have to work" but since I live in the area where I teach I have seen those same "too busy" parents at the tennis club, the golf course or a restaurant. I question how difficult it would be REALLY to meet with a teacher for twenty minutes twice a year. If you look at the number of employees who call in sick just to take a day off, and it's high, then there is no reason that they can't fit it into their day. And, by the way, I know what will come next-the teachers will end up having to stay from seven in the morning until eleven at night-which opens up another can of worms regarding substitutes or scheduling a Meeting Day. I doubt this bill will pass, and I know it seems extreme, but we do have a large number of lackadaisical parents out here in the public school world. We need their participation as active partners in their children's educations. Schools are not babysitters, they are not social clubs, but until parents begin pulling their weight in the process by providing basic needs and insisting on good behavior and academic persistence, nothing will change. Sorry this is so long, but we are in the midst of it here. Soon the rest of the nation will be as well. That's what happens when a culture refuses to assimilate.

Polski3 said...

As noted, it is nearly impossible to legislate parenting. BUT, what can be legislated are laws to make it easier for the removal of chronically disruptive students and incentives for parental involvement in their child's education, such as tax deductions for good grades and behavior in school (as proven by parents attaching a school certified (using one of those embossing thingies) copy of their kids report card).

Part of the problem is too many law makers send their kids to posh private schools where many of the problems of normal public education don't exist.

allen said...

It's perfectly obvious that a law like this is political eye wash which A) won't inspire parents to greater involvement even if it is enforced and B) won't be enforced.

Parental involvement comes from the realization that their concerns and opinions carry some weight. Since the degree to which parental concerns and opinions carry any weight is strictly a function of the value placed upon them by, most likely, the district administration there's nothing to make parental involvement a feature of public education as a whole. It's a purely local phenomenon since there's no reason for other districts to follow suit.

You want parental involvement? Change the structure of public education. It's a systemic problem and will only respond to a systemic solution.

Anonymous said...

I always go to parent-teacher conferences but I have never found them useful.

There aren't any surprises--the kids have been bringing home graded work for 9 weeks, I know how they are doing.

Discipline-wise if a teacher is waiting untl conference they are waiting too long.

What should be going on at these conferences?

--Just Wondering

Ellen K said...

I would say that many of the problems we encounter are the result of administrations that bend over backwards to appease parents. Kids get out of control, and if we set limits, there's a pretty decent chance of getting sued. In previous generations, if a kid caused problems the schools and parents worked together to resolve issues. Now it's a case of a parent being able to bully their opinion into procedure. The punishment, if it ever comes, is usually so diluted or removed from the incident that there's no connection for the kid. And it does no good to enforce rules about behavior at school, when parents, who may hold the PC touchy-feely structure of parenting over real structure, don't support the common goals.

Darren said...

I teach high school. If you're asked to come to a conference, it's because something is wrong. I assume anonymous is talking about elementary school.

I also assume that elementary teachers can tell you much more about your child than graded assignments can, since those teachers see the children for several continuous hours a day.

Then again, we all know what can happen when we assume....