For the last three years, until this past June, I worked in a public school in North Carolina. I taught Fifth Grade Language Arts. I heard that this is the first report card give out day there for this school year.
That consists of teaching school until 1:00 pm. The children come on time. Any enrichment class is shortened to be about twenty minutes long. Usually there is only one that day. Then at 1:00 parents, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, mentors, siblings, and anyone else in the mood, comes in the school and comes to the classroom to pick up a child’s report card.
Supposedly during this report card pick up time, there is a parent/teacher conference. At this particular school, I would find myself sometimes surrounded by 4 or 5 parents waiting to get their child’s report card. They didn’t really want to talk to me. They just wanted the report card that I was holding hostage until they came in to pick it up.
I felt like there was no confidentiality. I complained a couple times and spoke about the way we did it at the old school system where I worked. We made 15 minute appointments. We came in at 10 and stayed until 6:00. Parents came in. They sat down. I talked with them and they talked with me. I showed them samples of student work. They asked questions. I knew who was coming in which order and had all the file folders in order so I could quickly pick up the next one and have a real conference.
Today at the school I just resigned from in June, parents are coming in without an appointment. Teachers are tired from already teaching from 7:20 to 1:00. Anyone who thinks teaching isn’t tiring has never done it. Then they wait for parents to show up. Hopefully they will recognize the parent that they probably haven’t seen since August Open House. Sometimes I didn’t recognize the parent and had to ask who they were. If the child was with them, I knew whose parent it was.
The report card was handed out. Some samples of work were shown. Parents signed the form saying they had gotten the card. And I was left feeling like I had many things to say to parents that didn’t get said because of the waiting parents who were standing around.
I suggested the school system hand out report cards and have parent conferences in a different, scheduled way. I was told that could not be done because “we’ve always done it this way”. That is poor reason to continue to do anything. Change, innovation, should be embraced by education. After all, we are asking our children to change – to become more educated – to learn more and be more aware. Wouldn’t it be nice if parents had the same opportunity?
I’m just glad that I did not live through that day today that many of my former colleagues are right now ending. Go in at 7:20am, teach until 1:00pm, hand out report cards helter-skelter until 6:00 or 6:30pm. Oh, and it’s the first work day of the time change week. At least I’m not there.