Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The finer points of parent-teacher conferences

Before the school holidays, I attend the Parent-Teacher Conferences (PTCs) for both Lesley-Anne and Andre.

I have mixed feelings about PTCs. On one hand, I want to know how my children are doing in school. On the other hand, sometimes knowing is worse than not knowing. You know what I mean - going to a PTC only to hear the teacher confirm your worst fears about how badly your child is doing is about as enjoyable as having a root canal. Students definitely feel the same way because Lesley-Anne told me that her classmates who weren't doing very well in school were the ones who actively discouraged their parents from attending the PTC.

Another reason for not liking PTCs is that I usually don't really get much value from them. I feel compelled to attend them but I really don't need to meet the teacher to hear that Lesley-Anne should speak up more or that Andre needs to pay attention in class. Tell me something I don't already know.

But this year, I was pleasantly surprised both times. Andre's PTC, for instance. Andre's results haven't exactly been stellar so I was half expecting the worst. Instead, his teachers never once mentioned his grades and one by one, told me that he's a very nice boy with a great attitude.

When we met the Chinese teacher, I thought we would be admonished for raising a son who believed that scraping by with a passing grade for Chinese compo was the pinnacle of achievement. Instead, he said that Andre has a good attitude and just needs to have more confidence in himself. Although when Kenneth asked where Andre's weakness lay, the teacher did say "when he picks up his pen." Alamak! Somebody hand that teacher a trophy for stand-up comedy. 

Ok, I know I shouldn't laugh but sometimes, the best way to approach a situation is just to have a sense of humour. Andre's Chinese is what it is. Angst-ing over it is not gonna make an iota of a difference. I'm thankful that his teachers appreciate him for who he is and don't judge him simply based on his report book.

For Lesley-Anne, I wasn't expecting much since the school term only started in mid-February and the teachers have had limited face time with the students. In the past, some of her teachers barely even remembered her name until later on in the school year. So I was astonished when a few of the teachers displayed a keenly astute perspective of her personality, right down to who she gets along with in class and whose views she doesn't agree with (if you know Lesley-Anne, you'll understand that this is no mean feat because here is a girl who doesn't talk much and doesn't publicly reveal her emotions). They brought up specific instances of her behaviour, which showed that they saw her and paid attention.

But what I was most pleased about was that most of them seemed genuinely interested in her as a whole person. They didn't just zoom in on her schoolwork - they asked about her CCA and external activities. They felt that she had a lot to offer intellectually and wanted to help her grow. It was a refreshing change from PTCs where teachers made general statements based on grades. Oh, and that she should speak up more. I'm not sure if it's this school or just her batch of teachers but when I left the PTC, I felt that Lesley-Anne was very blessed to have such nurturing teachers.

As mentioned earlier, PTCs are a touch-and-go affair. I don't always emerge from them feeling like I've gained anything but this year, I'm very glad I went. I came back less worried about my kids' immediate education journey (for the rest of the year at least) because I know they're in good hands.

Thank God for good teachers.


stay-at-home mum said...

When I attend PTC I usually only ask about how my children have settled into school, and behavoiral aspects. I find that the teachers at the higher levels (Secondary and JC) provide more of the feedback I expect than at primary school where the teachers are only interested in grades. Not that I am not, but that is a minor concern of mine. Coz if the rest falls into place, the children will be able to achieve what they are capable of. They need to be happy to perform well.

monlim said...

I agree primary school teachers tend to focus more on grades and also the smaller things like handwriting, not bringing files, etc etc. Maybe cos the students are younger and they feel some level of micro-managing is necessary? Having said that, L-A's sec schl teachers were rather grade-centric as well. That's why it's such a refreshing change to encounter these JC teachers!

Rachel Tan said...

In the initial years, I tended to take every word said by the teachers very seriously and sensitively, and then relay it in an exaggerated way (possibly with extrapolations) to the hubby and kids thereafter.

I think the novelty has worn off. This year, I didn't attend and arrowed the hubby to attend instead.

It's good though, that schools now set aside this time and have this structure for parents who wish to consult with teachers. Teachers are also much more accessible these days - you can ring them or drop them an email and most will respond.

monlim said...

Rachel: You're right about the accessibility. I can reach most of my kids' teachers via email and many of them even give out their handphone numbers! Being a teacher these days is tough.

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