Three weeks ago, we posted an article on parent-teacher meetings and what the teacher could do to make them successful. This week, we present to you parent-teacher meetings from a parent’s point of view and what a parent expects from a parent-teacher meeting.
By Mitu Jayashankar
I am one of those parents, who have rarely ever missed a parent teacher meeting.
I reach on time or early, I wait patiently for my turn, I don’t ask unnecessary questions, and I do genuinely look forward to learning something about my child every time I step foot in that classroom.
However, I have been disappointed almost with every other parent-teacher-meeting I have attended. The reason – the teachers very rarely have anything specific to tell me about my child. Every year it is the same ritual – sign the attendance sheet that says you were here, hand over the report cards, and hear the same thing every time – your child is a good kid and he is doing well. Total waiting time exceeds an hour. Total interaction time is less than a few minutes.
Well, I expect a little more than that. And I will tell you why. Here are the three ways in which I think parent-teacher-meetings can be made more productive:
1. Tell me something specific about my child
I know an average class teacher handles about 40 odd students. And the human mind has a tendency to record problems more accurately than things that work fine. I am also grateful that no teacher has ever had any complaints about my child. But surely even good, obedient, and ‘no problem children’ leave some impressions on a teacher’s mind. So instead of a generic, “he is a very good child, I have no complaints about him”, how about saying, “the other day I noticed him helping his friend with his homework, or your child is always the first one to raise his hand when I ask for volunteers. Or the other day, he cracked a wonderful joke that made everyone laugh. Or even this – sometimes I notice that he tends to sit alone during lunch break”. It doesn’t have to be always good. But something that tells me that you have noticed my child and remembered to share that with me.
My parents never attended even one PTM in my school. My mother’s logic was ‘there is nothing they can tell me about you that I already don’t know’. I don’t believe that. I want to know. I think there is a lot going on in that classroom and seeing my child through the eyes of another adult who spends a better half of the day with him/her can add tremendous value. Also, I am not always objective about my child, so I could miss some obvious traits. Like adults, children can also exhibit two kinds of personalities. Some children can be extra reserved at home or in school. It helps a parent to know what his/her child is like when he/she is outside the house.
2. Be better prepared for PTM meetings
PTM meetings also need some time management. I say this for parents and for teachers alike. Parents can come prepared with their questions written down before hand. And teachers can take some time out the previous day to jot down impressions about each ward in her class. Some parents get a few minutes and others ramble on for what seems like hours. Because a lot of teachers take the school transport for going back, I have noticed that those who come at the end of the allotted hour just get whizzed in and out. Some sort of system will help everyone.
Also I would like schools to allot some sort of a token system/or a register to record the order in which the parents can see the teacher. Or give us appointed time slots. “I will see you between 9-9.15 am”. Go by roll numbers if you have to. But find a way to de-clutter that class room and make waiting less painful. Letting the parents decide who goes first is a bad system.
3. Be sensitive while giving feedback about a child to who else is listening
I have often heard things being discussed about another child that I should not have. Very often I find parents and teachers engaged in discussing sensitive issues about the child, as if the child is not there, with the whole world listening on. Also, I notice that children keep standing while parents and teachers carry on the conversation sitting across each other. We are not teaching our children the right values if we don’t treat them sensitively. Children too have the right to privacy and they deserve to be treated with more sensitivity.
In the end, parents and teachers want the same thing for our children. That they turn out to be good citizens and realize their potential. With good communication we can help each other play that role better.
Thank you for the good work you are doing.