conference timetables and the means of correct training
my kids' schools try all sorts of approaches to parent-teacher conferences. the elementary, middle, and high schools in our district are all fine public institutions with good parental involvement. as class sizes rise, however, it becomes institutionally more difficult to provide the sort of individualized feedback demanded by parents.
the last few years the schools adopted a fuzzy-logic approach in which parents arrive within a time window and simply flow to available teachers as spots open up. that worked ok, but the suck-up parents tended to monopolize the teachers' time (ok, mr. hofsparger, if jimmy does all the extra credit, will he get an A-plus-plus?). once the school organized a simple meet n' greet-style celebration of student progress with cookies; i recall this with some bitterness because i saw no call for celebration on that particular report card. i even refused the cookies.
this year, the middle school adopted a more traditional approach, allotting a little individual time for each parent. the teachers were well-organized and lined up with their student progress reports in the cafeteria and in the gymnasium, which is about a 5-minute walk from the cafeteria. here is the timetable for my middle schooler's parent-teacher conference this morning:
8:50-8:55 (Reading) Cafeteria
8:55-9:00 (Math) Gym
9:00-9:05 (Language Arts) Cafeteria
9:05-9:10 (Health) Gym
9:10-9:15 (Social Studies) Cafeteria
9:15-9:20 (Science) Cafeteria
it was efficient, i suppose, but pretty much a blur except for the running back and forth. we exchanged pleasantries and several teachers made comments showing that they really knew and cared about my daughter. so, that was cool. i also got lots of spreadsheet-style data on daily assignments. the simple task of recording so much data must suck up a large portion of the teachers' time. it seems that every kid gets a grade every day in every class for everything they do. everything. [some kids despise this with every fiber of their beings. if you happen to have a kid in this category, let me suggest that you not share discipline and punish and learning to labor with them until college. trust me on this.]
i had my boots on this morning and i desperately wanted to clomp madly through the hallways to dramatize the silliness of scheduling five-minute appointments in separate area codes with no time allotted for travel. it would have been fun to push the other parents out of the way, toss a flurry of papers in the hallway, and arrive for my little appointments looking desperately disheveled.
of course, this sort of deviant parental behavior has proven devastatingly embarrassing to my daughter in the past. instead, i'll try to problem-solve for the district. for next year, i'm going to suggest holding the conferences at minneapolis-st. paul international airport. the teachers can assemble alongside the moving sidewalks and the parents can file through in alphabetical order. a simple thumbs up or thumbs down as they hand us the spreadsheets should suffice.