Every parent wants his or her child to do better than he or she did. So why do educators put so much time into soliciting parent involvement? Maybe parents are more involved than we think they are, if we consider this first research-based reality.
Following a parent-teacher conference in my first year of teaching, teachers and an administrator hovered outside the door of the classroom. Watching the young mother pushing a stroller with a child on her hip, one teacher quipped “She’s young.” Another, “And, she’s a single-parent.” Sighs thickened the air in the hallway. The mutterings are to “explain” why her son was unmotivated, academically underperforming, disruptive, etc. “I wonder if my son’s teachers said these things about me,” I said aloud. It seemed to alert the band – for a moment.
So, yes, I was singing “changes in latitudes” – looking out my top floor Philadelphia hotel where the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) conference kicked off yesterday. “Changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same” (thank you, Jimmy Buffett). Nothing remains quite the same and it isn’t when it comes to school conferences. Student-led conferences are not new. For over twenty years, educators suggest empowering students to drive their conferences benefits all stakeholders. The recent surge in student-led conference sessions at conferences suggests many educators are embracing this tool. And why shouldn’t they?
Student-led conferencing empowers a student to share an authentic portrait of their school journey. Parental involvement increases as parents see their child in a new role. When technology is employed in a student-led conference, parent attendance at these conferences increases. Parents who do not have internet access are excited to come and see how their child is using the world wide web to enhance learning.
But maybe it isn’t the increase in parent involvement that is most important. It is better put this way – it increases how educators see parents involved. And that’s important, so we can change our attitude to a more positive approach to all parents, instead of nesting in data-based stereotyping.