Horrible parent teacher conference

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by Bibliophile, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. Bibliophile

    Bibliophile Companion

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    Nov 16, 2015

    I think I may just need a hug.

    I have always hated conferences. I like 5 year olds way more than there parents. I always tie myself in knots over it but in general it's usually fine. In fact my bigger issue is that I worry myself silly when in real life it's not necessary since parents usually get an eye opener and are more receptive when they see their child's work portfolio next to the standards so they can see the facts and just the facts m'am.

    However the conference I had today was really my worse nightmare come true. I told a parent that her child is very bright and he could really be thriving and excelling beyond grade level standards if he had better attendance (12 absences this first trimester). She basically got belligerent and said that his absences are totally reasonable for a kindergartener and his absences should be held against him. She said if I were a good teacher I should be able to send home work that keeps him learning to the point that his absences shouldn't matter. She said that I was descriminating against him because his father is a disable vet and she need to care for him which makes it hard to to run three kids around. She called me names and questioned my ability as a teacher. When I tried to tell her that we should get back on track and talk about her child's academic growth and look over his work samples she basically said the didn't want to talk to me anymore and she would be going straight to the principal which she promptly stomped off to do.

    It was awful and totally from left field and now I don't want to have do conferences anymore.

    They don't pay me enough to let me be abused (oh yeah and this conferences was held after my contract hours to accomidated this parent so I wasn't getting paid at all).

    How would any of you try to get back on track with a parent after something like this since, it's only day 67 of 183 instructional days this year.

    Also I used to be worried that we aren't having end of the year conferences since parents often expect that second conferences, but now I couldn't be happier about it.
     
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  3. teacherpippi

    teacherpippi Habitué

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    Nov 16, 2015

    First, a big hug! It's no fun to be blindsided by conferences!

    If a parent is calling you names, it's okay to stop a conference or call in an admin. You don't need to allow a parent to keep treating you poorly.

    Next time, have a colleague or principal attend this parent's conference with you. You may want to think about giving your admin a head's up with their "accusations" no matter how unfounded they are- it will give them a better chance to defend you.

    Generally conference times, though outside typical hours, are a part of your teacher contract. Though we do many things outside of hours, the conferences themselves are usually included in the contract!
     
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  4. a teacher

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    I am sorry to hear this. It is an awful feeling. The first thing I'd say, and I know many here will disagree, is that you should avoid communicating with that parent. They blew it. Though the official administrative response would be that you should have someone else with you next time and try to smooth things over by calling them back in, I would say that parent doesn't deserve your time. It sounds like you handled it the best you could. If you have no idea going in that you'll be dealing with someone who wants to be a jerk, you can easily get thrown off.

    Generally when someone's getting stupid with you like that you first try to steer the conversation to the facts and the kid. In this case, the parent is to blame for not getting their kid to school and it's not your problem. If they continue talking trash, you say "this conference is over" or words to that effect, and leave, referring them to your admin. Your admin's get paid very well to deal with unpleasant things like that, so don't feel guilty.
     
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  5. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Nov 17, 2015

    Pop in to see the principal today; if the parent did go to see him (her?) you'll be able to give your point of view. The absences are certainly a problem and I'm sure that your administrator would have communicated that to the parent.

    I agree that you should only meet with the parent with admin presence in the future; communicating with parents is part of my job, I wouldn't be able to say that I won't meet with this parent, but I can set the parameters.
     
  6. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Wow! You deserve credit for sticking with the planned conference. You were doing a wonderful job presenting the needs of the student to the parent. The parent was being disrespectful to your position and to you as a person--that is uncalled for. One positive I noticed, at least the parent confronted you first. If a parent is going to dish it out, I'd rather they give it to me than talk behind my back.

    Not that this is an excuse, but I've known parents to be overwhelmed by family situations and react differently than anticipated at a conference, but if that's the case in this situation, surely she would apologize and seek a plan of action to help her child.
     
  7. Bibliophile

    Bibliophile Companion

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    Nov 17, 2015

    Actually our school has minimum days all week to keep us from having to do conferences outside of our contract hours. I am the only teacher in my grade span (k-3) to let parents choose a time that works for them to ensure that can be there. As a school we were told to simply give them a time of our choosing and send them a notice with their appointment time. The other teachers had many cancelations while I opened up time slots well into the evening on my time so that parents did have to worry about getting time off work. To be at work 11 hours after I got there and several hours after everyone else had left only to be yelled at and name called seemed like an extra kick in the gut is all.
     
  8. Bibliophile

    Bibliophile Companion

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    Nov 17, 2015

    Thank you all for your replies. I will not be meeting with this parent in the future without admin being present for sure.
     
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  9. Bibliophile

    Bibliophile Companion

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    Nov 17, 2015

    Oh no! I just remembered that I also have IEP meeting for this student in two weeks (speech iep not academic). Now I'm going to have to go through this all of again.

    Any chance I can hide in the back
     
  10. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Nov 17, 2015

    DEFINITELY bring up your concerns with your principal as well as the speech therapist. You need to be supported, if not shielded, during this meeting.
     
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  11. a teacher

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    This was a clear example of why you should not put in those extra unpaid hours. If you want to be treated professionally, you need to keep professional (paid) hours only. Otherwise you're sending the message that you'll bend over backwards for parents and that you are ok with being a doormat.
     
  12. a teacher

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    That definitely stinks. Make sure your admin is on board and won't just sit there while you get pummeled. If they have your back you can keep it short and to the point.
     
  13. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Nov 17, 2015

    Yikes! Yes, only meet with these parents with am admin present.

    I've seen such behavior before and yeah, parents struggling with lots of responsibilities get defensive. I believe most are doing their best and can't understand why others can't pitch in more (i.e., just send home more work!)
     
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  14. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Nov 17, 2015

    First, I am sorry you had this rough parent. Anyone who has taught for awhile has had a nut like this, and it just really stinks to go through it.

    I wouldn't meet with this parent without an administrator present (Like Backroads mentioned) for the rest of the school year. Again, so sorry you have such an abusive parent. Not your fault, not your fault, not your fault.
     
  15. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Nov 17, 2015

    It sounds like this is another parent who doesn't understand attendance laws.

    Do you have a truancy officer? Maybe she'd get the message if she was taken to court.
     
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  16. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Nov 17, 2015

    At ten absences my school sends a note home. Ten in one semester is excessive. Did you provide data/work samples that would illustrate your point? I think parents are more receptive if you send the message that you believe their kid is bright but 'here's some work where little Johnny isn't showing his potential and I want you to know that I'm doing (these things) to help support him so that he can reach his potential?..I'm wondering if Johnny's absences are contributing to his struggles....'.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2015
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  17. DHE

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    Nov 17, 2015

    You were nice to continue the conference. I would have asked for the P to come in once she became belligerent. If the P was not available, I would have ended and told her that she can reschedule when P is able to sit in the meeting. As far as the future conference is concerned, I would just sit back and let the ST handle it and request for admin to be present. Our district has policies for absentees and the next step would be taken against the parents through Child Welfare or DA's office. Kindergarten should not matter in this situation.
     
  18. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Nov 17, 2015

    Agreed.

    I'm at the point where I've developed enough trust with admin, positive reputation with the school community that if a parent started shouting or accusing me, I'd be able to diffuse the situation with a simple "you seem upset and I'd be glad to further discuss ths with you in a calm manner at a later time. I have another conference now, let's keep in touch about meeting again" and then I'd stand and head for the door. Conferences are not an opportunity for abuse.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
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  19. Bibliophile

    Bibliophile Companion

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    Nov 17, 2015

    Your right. I have a terrible time getting to stuff at my kids school becuase we work the same hours and I was trying to be thoughtful but I think your rut that I need to look more deeply at the message I'm sending -I'm willing to be flexible because this is important and not I'm a doormat here to serve you at your convenience.

    And I emailed my admin about this and have gotten no reply.

    On the good side, every other conference I have had so far has been great. I even got to gush over one of my students who came in academically low and is already one of my top achievers. This adorable little munchkin is a sponge with a serious love of learning and his mom is insistent that me and my class are the reason for this. And another little girl that is doing great, her parents told me she hated preschool and they even pulled her out of more than one since she hated them so much and now she loves school and gets sad on Saturday when she can't come to school. This was just what I needed to hear today.
     
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  20. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Nov 17, 2015

    Save those good memories for the down times....
     
  21. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Wondering how your attitude and mindset about conferences influences your ability to communicate with parents...instead try viewing this time as an opportunity to celebrate children's accomplishments, share concerns and strategies you're using to facilitate learning, allow parents to provide input into the process....
     
  22. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    Nov 19, 2015

    I can foresee a similar situation, based on an e-mail exchange with a parent today. The (bright) child got a progress report for not turning anything in to date (about three weeks ago). She e-mailed me at that time, in a questioning tone. I informed her of the reason... and I didn't hear from her. Until yesterday. Apparently she e-mailed, asking for what the child was specifically missing. I did not reply yesterday, and she e-mailed again. In today's e-mail, she basically threatened to go to "official" channels, if I didn't reply.

    ???

    I only heard from her one day earlier. I neglected to get back to her that day (truth be told, I don't remember reading her e-mail from yesterday and probably wouldn't have thought to reply unless she didn't go ahead and e-mail again. It wasn't because I wasn't going to reply. I was gone too, working on report card grades.)

    Anyway, I replied to her, informing her of some of the missed work. But I was definitely taken aback at her tone. As you all know, grading late work only amounts to EXTRA time you're spending on the child. So in reality, I'm giving her child EXTRA consideration and attention. But it definitely has me p'ed off, the parent acting like its something that I did/am doing wrong. Anyway, I can foresee a possibly contentious conference on her part. The thing is: I have no idea why!
     
  23. a teacher

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    Nov 19, 2015

    At least you have an inkling. Its awful when you get blindsided because you have no warning ahead of time that you're going to be dealing with someone who is belligerant.
     
  24. a teacher

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    I like the walking away and talking like mr. nice guy approach. It would be funny because it would totally shut things down on the parent. I wonder if anyone has actually done that though. I've only heard about it as a strategy. It would take guts.
     
  25. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Concerning John Lee's post above, I'm seeing email to be a blessing and a curse. Email gives 24/7 access to the teacher, but in reality, a teacher does not have 24/7 access to email. Email is like a robot; teachers are human.
     
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  26. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Parents always want a response to an email within a day (except maybe on weekends). I think the best course is to give them that, even if it's a short, one-line email.*

    I know a fair number of teachers who reliably respond within a day (and several, within hours). And I've known others who would let a week go by, and then just never respond. The latter can be extremely frustrating.

    It's best to set the level towards the beginning of the year -- indicate how long it will take for a response. Learn to put an auto-response on your email to indicate if you're away on vacation, or even away over the weekend.

    As far as dealing with the conferences themselves, I think every teacher should have one or two non-academic points to mention about each child -- the idea here isn't to really give the parent information they don't have, but to show them you know their child as a person. It could be a comment on how they like sports books, or what they enjoy doing during recess, or a little anecdote about something they did. One teacher led off a conference with my wife and I with, "Your son has a very... unique sense of humor." :) Right then, we knew she had an understanding of him as a person.

    Remember what the parent fears going into the conference: that their parenting abilities are going to be judged, that the teacher dislikes their child, that they're going to be ambushed with surprise information, or the teacher is going to ask them to do something that's unreasonable or impossible -- and they're then going to have to go back and yell at their kid for something that happened three weeks ago. Reactions to these is what's going to make your PT conferences worse; minimize them and you'll find yourself having much more productive meetings.

    * Not that I think you did anything particularly wrong, John -- one calendar day later should be at most 48 hours after the initial email, and that *should* be acceptable to any parent for things which aren't real emergencies (and it sounds like this wasn't). It might have felt longer to her, if she sent the email in the morning and you responded in the afternoon of the next day (since she may have thought you weren't going to respond the next day, so was mentally thinking the response wasn't until a day after that). And even if she *did* think you were negligent, her reaction was wrong -- it would have been more appropriate to send again and ask if you'd received/read the email.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
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  27. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    One of the easiest things in the world to do is respond to emails in a timely manner. To me, a timely response happens by the end of the school day following the receipt of the email (under most circumstances, of course). If you got the email on Tuesday, you should respond no later than Wednesday at the end of the day. I think that's a perfectly reasonable time frame, practical for both busy teachers and concerned parents. I myself try to respond right away, if for no other reason than that I won't forget to do it later. (I'm of the OHIO mentality--Only Handle It Once. If I opened the email, I should just go ahead and deal with it right then and there, because otherwise I have a tendency to forget about it. If I know I can't deal with it right now, I don't open the email until the end of the day.)
     
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  28. a teacher

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    I agree that emailing quick is easy. I'm usually happy to get emails because it shows the parent is involved with their kid's schooling and it's faster and easier than phone calls. I usually respond within an hour or two.

    Generally speaking, it's obnoxious for anyone not to respond to an email- work related or social. It's like a person not returning a phone call. There's no excuse.

    On that note I've been wondering something for a long time. I have kids fill out an assignment telling me a little about themselves at the beginning of the year. One of the things they need to write down is parent contact info, including email. I still get some parents writing they don't have an email and many who may write that they check it weekly or rarely. What does this mean? I am referring to a largely poor Latino population, but they all have phones so how is it possible some have no email? Are these individuals blatantly lying so I don't contact them???
     
  29. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    This....

    John Lee, I'd probably respond something along the lines of "Thank you for your email. As we discussed in our email conversation 3 weeks ago, your student has fallen behind in turning in assignments. As of today, the following work is still outstanding: XYZ. School/class policy regarding late work is (whatever). I have discussed the importance of time management and responsibility with (student). Thank you or reinforcing this at home. I know that working together we can support (student) in improving in this area.". And then I might CC my supervisor/P
     
  30. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Honestly, many people don't have or use email these days. My most tech-savvy students often have no idea how to set up an email account or what an email address should look like. We are a Google school, so we set up accounts for them, and it is truly surprising to see what they don't know about email. It wouldn't surprise me at all to know that their parents are similarly uninformed about or disinterested in using email, especially if they don't work at a job that requires email.
     
  31. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    I ended up going the "please come in and let's discuss... there seems to be a misunderstanding... you and I are partners in your child's education..." route. She responded with a pleasant thank you e-mail. This parent seems somewhat high-maintenance though (both parents are doctors... kid is very bright but irresponsible).
     
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  32. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sounds like a great response!
     
  33. Bibliophile

    Bibliophile Companion

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    Well the conferences are over and every single other conference went great. The parents are happy and some ar actually more open to working in a partnership with me to help them improve their students performance, and attendance and one who is now thinking of helping out in our class. Yea!

    I did get one parent (who showed up so late for his conference that I had to cancel it since he showed up after he had missed the whole time slot and into another parents appointment) that is questioning my grading and I would love to get feed back on that for some seasoned veterans.

    First off our report cards are dumb and not aligned to the standards. There are 4 catch all categories were we give an overall grade for an entire domain (wow a grade for all of language arts for kindergarteners, how does that even make sense when writing, listening and speaking, phonics, reading ect can all have very different levels of ability within a single student) as well as a few sub categories that have little to do with the standards or they are problematically vague like a score is given for problem solving in math (is it addition problem, decomposing numbers problems, comparing numbers problems, play value problems ect). The catch all catagorie grades are either an "I" for insufficient progress, "s" for sufficient progress, and "e" for excellent progress.

    i gave s scores to students who had learned everything that has been taught in math with an average score of 70 % accuracy or better, a score of I to students who score below this in even a single area within the domain, and a score of e for students who are score a 90% or better in most areas and working above grade level in at least 1 category within the domain.

    The parent said that I was unjustly penalizing my students for giving them a score of e if they had learned everything that I had taught and how it seemed very unfair to expect the student to know things that I hadn't taught. I replied that I was not penalizing my students for not working above grade level, and that as a matter of fact I have center time options every day for students to work on above grade level skills so not only was I not penalizing students for not know what hadn't been taught but students did have opportunities daily to work above grade level. I told him that learning everything that I had taught was my minimum expectation and that all students should be doing atleast this and those who aren't need remediation for not meeting minimum standards. I also pointed out that it is a data driven teaching practice to have high expectations for students becuase it has been shown to improve achievement and students engagement.

    Are my grading standards too high? I talked with my grade level span teachers and they said that they grade the same way.

    What do you do if a parent questions your grading practices.
     
  34. a teacher

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    Nov 21, 2015

    Sounds like a bad combination! But yeah, usually these things are misunderstandings on the part of parents and they need to be talked to face to face. Emails can cause a lot of breakdown in communication.
     
  35. a teacher

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    Tough luck if they don't like it, as long as you have an admin who will back you up. I have heard that legally, nobody on the planet can make you change your grading system (please correct me if that's false, somebody). The thing is you just have to cya by making sure it's in writing in your syllabus (or whatever you use for kindergarten-can't even imagine!).
     
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  36. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Nov 21, 2015

    It's really too bad that that mom reacted that way. I think it's clear that she has a lot on her plate and is taking it out on you, unfortunately. Is your P supporting you in this? You were clearly correct to address the issue of his absences, which we know absolutely does affect learning. Also, what mom does not understand is it's more than the tangible "work" that your student missed. So much of learning is more than a paper that gets turned in but the time spent reading, conversing about topics, thinking through problems, etc. You can't actually send that home to be made up at a later time. Perhaps mom does not understand the foundations that are being built on a daily basis and time really is of the essence. Every day counts. I would argue that every minute counts.
     
  37. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    Nov 21, 2015

    As long as all of the other teachers in the school grade this way and you have the support of your admin, you're doing great. I grade the exact same way - we use 1, 2, 3's though. (3 would be an e for you) Only way a child is going to get a 3 is if they are doing MORE than what is expected - I'm lucky that many of my students will independently research a topic at home and bring that knowledge to class or use it in their homework assignments. I get upset parents too about this, but tough luck - I'm not dumbing down my standards to appease parents.

    As for the being absent and sending homework home, I would let the parent know that I can't send all assignments home - some have to be completed in class or need to have a concept taught before a child can complete it on their own. You could create a web-site that you can post homework assignments at and files for parents to download - that puts some of the responsibility on the parents then.

    Also, do you have anything written about too many absences in your student handbook? If not, you may want to share with your P that something SHOULD be included about how many days a student can miss. That way you can point to that policy and show the parent you're not being biased.

    Lastly, with abusive parents, I put them on the "contract hours" list. Meaning they will not get any responses from me outside my contract hours - 8 am to 3:30 pm. They will not get any extra help from me and I add my P to the CC spot on the email if they send me abusive emails - so that they know my boss is aware of what they are saying to me and what I'm saying to them. I don't do any phone conversations either - they have to be face-to-face meetings (during my contract hours) and I get my P to come as well. My P is great - she will call out a mean parent and tell them to stop. I treat their child the same though - lots of love, help, and care, as I don't want the child to think that I'm upset with them.

    (This parent sounds like she is over burdened and seems to think that you will adjust your expectations because of her family. You have to hold each child, who is emotionally and mentally capable, to the same standards though. Mom has a husband to take care of and 3 kids - that was her decision to make, but she doesn't have the right to keep a child of hers out of school because of her busy life. Maybe not a popular viewpoint, but people need to stop making excuses for not helping their children academically.)

    Hope some of this helps! What is really great is that you had a lot of awesome conferences and just 1 bad one. Great job!
     
  38. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    I don't think that's true (i.e., that no one can make you change your standards) as a general statement, a teacher, though it may be true in your state if there are specific protections around it.*

    Bibliophile, my take on grades for kindergarten is that they're not punitive anyway -- I mean come on, it's not as though colleges are looking at kindergarten grades. The most rational way to view such grades is as a current comparison of where they are relative to peers.

    At any rate, with essentially three grade levels you're pretty much looking at an even blunter instrument than usual school measures.

    * of course, you have the option to resign instead of changing your standards if they push it, but I don't think that's what you meant.
     
  39. Bibliophile

    Bibliophile Companion

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    Nov 21, 2015

    Yeah the report card is dumb, the 3 tiered grading that doesn't earl ate to standards is equally dumb, and arguing over a kindergarteners grade is especially dumb. Admin is behind me and says that the level should vaguely represent below, at and above grade level expectations.

    Since my school is new however, and this is the first report card period this school has ever gone through, I think there was bound to be hiccups and someone who was irritated because they didn't understand I guess. There is no "way" that things have been done before or a precedent that has been set. I had never even seen the report card before a week before they were due so before this I couldn't explain grading since I didn't even know what the grading system was and there was all this talk about how we were going create our own report cards and grading scales...right up until a week before when the principal said "oh by the way we are using the same report cards as the other district schools this year". I'm not married to my system, it was just what I choose in the moment since I need to do the report cards in short notice and I hated the system and report cards. If I thought it was unfair or if admin asked me to change it then ... What ever. I guess I just felt upset that a parent would be accusatory about my grading and say that my system, that followed the same grading pattern as my grade level span, was punitive. And that a parent that couldn't even be bothered to show up on time would be the one who being aggressive about it.

    Ugh. I cc'ed admin with my last response (the parent sent 5 emails questioning my grading practices and basically demanding that their child get all e's) and my P just responded to me saying that the parent was out of line and that my grading is in line with school policy in our handbook which specifically sites that students will be recognized and graded accordingly for academically above level work.
     
  40. Bibliophile

    Bibliophile Companion

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    Nov 21, 2015

    Oh yeah- my P also told me that my bad conference parent-the one calling me names and accusing me of descriminating against her child and being a bad teacher- didn't say a bad word about me to her. She said she was busy when the parent arrived so she had to wait about 15 minutes and by then she was crying over her own failure as a parent and asking for support toget her child to school when she can't drive him since she lives out of town and commute her child in to come to our school (charter school in a district that is like 80% transfers from lower achieving urban schools). She called her after my email and let her know that the other K class has room in if she would like to move her child to which she said she most definitely doesn't want to move her child from my class.

    I guess she just flipped out on me and then later after she cooled off and thought It through she changed her mind and her tune about things. I said I'm still not meeting with her alone. Some people react very differently to people in higher authority than they do with classroom teachers so I'm not taking that chances. I'm also cc'ing my P on everything to this parent from here on out. She may have gone from Jekyll to Hyde and back but that just shows me that it could happen again.

    My P also indicated to me that our new school seems to have gotten more than its fair share of difficult parents and that I must being doing something right if all I've gotten is 2 people be having badly since that's nothing compared to so of the upper grade classes. I'm thinking STEM focused charter schools may attract certain personalities.
     
    Backroads and BioAngel like this.
  41. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Nov 21, 2015

    That explains a lot; a parent who goes to the effort to send their kids to such a school will either have ludicrous expectations, or really has no other options (as in, the regular public schools in the area are terrible).

    Assure the parents that you're not determining their kids' future, that it's just a snapshot in time.
     

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