Even though I was sick — aching and tired — I survived our Parent’s Night last week. I think it was pretty successful, even though I was foiled a few times by parents who tricked me into talking about their children. (I keep a general policy not to talk about individual kids at these events; it’s a time to share what we do in the classroom, introduce myself to parents, and to tell parents what their kids can do to be successful — and how they can help their kids be successful). I’m still baffled on how they tricked me. I totally blame my weak immune system for my inability to steer conversation away from talking about little Jane or little Jake.
The night had one tragedy — when SmartBoard didn’t work for one of my classes. I knew this would happen; the same thing happened last year. I even told everyone I knew it would happen again. However, luckily, it happened when talking to the parents of my four student multivariable class. The parents all knew each other — these kids had been in the same classes for gosh knows how long — and so we just gathered ’round my laptop and I showed them what sorts of things go on in our class.
(1) Parents tend to start off the night stoic. Their faces won’t let anything through. Cracking jokes or smiling doesn’t phase them. As the night progresses, however, the parents get more laid back, and by our last class, parents have let their guard down. I swear I heard a few of them laugh in my last presentation. I’ve asked other teachers in my school if they have noticed this phenomenon, and it seems pretty universal.
(2) Parents like to introduce themselves (great). Parents like to follow that up by asking “how’s my kid doing?” (not great). First of all, as I said, I don’t like to talk about individual students. Second of all, who is your kid again? Believe me, unless you say “we’re the parents of Joe Schmo,” every time you meet me, I’m not going to know who you are.
(3) I realized I go into these nights actually expecting some gratitude from parents. And when I didn’t get it from more than a handful of parents, I felt a little slighted. Am I a bad teacher for needing those bits of affirmation? I don’t know. But I can’t help how I feel, and that’s what I felt.
(4) One point I made to almost all my parents is the basis for how I approach designing any class: I try to get them to do work which I think is just beyond the level that they think they can do. Of course, I’m not always successful with this, but I do try to push my students just past their perceived limits. Gauging their limits is tough though. I’m doing a really good job with this in Multivariable Calculus this year, but at the moment, I don’t think I’m pushing my Algebra II or Calculus classes enough.
With that, I’m going to eat an apple, and get me to bed, and hope to be ready tomorrow to embark on yet another week.