There are many aspects of education that are physically and mentally draining. For me, parent-teacher conferences are but one of them. I often stand at my classroom's doorway and watch the crowds of parents/guardians wait in long lines for my general education colleagues. With up to 150+ plus students, their sign-in sheets are filled quickly, with students and parents leaning against the wall for prolonged periods of time awaiting their turn.
As a special education teacher, my roster is a mere 19 students. However, given the complexities of their children's academic delays, once a parent does eventually appear at my door, our conferences can easily take 30 minutes. Of the 8 parents/guardians that came to see me over the two days of conferences, my time was fully utilized.
It is these kinds of meetings that affirm my choice to struggle through the muck of being a special education teacher. Sitting with these caregivers provides, for me, the link between all the effort I exert in any given day and the end results and hopes sought by their families. Frank discussions often ensue. Parents frequently ask: "Will my child ever be able to read?" "I can't control him/her at home." "Will he/she ever be able to overcome his or her delays?"
Grades are usually never an issue. The issues are far greater than any grade on a report card.
I have likewise found that the parents that do show up are very forthright in divulging more information than their child's "Social History" records could ever reveal. This week I sat as guardians informed me of murders in their families, financial instabilities, and destructive substance abuse. These bits of information are revealed with the hope, just the slightest bit of hope, that I (and my teacher counterpart) can somehow use another piece of the puzzle to figure out what went wrong, what can be done, and/or what is not working and what alternative arrangements may be available through the City.