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The Power Is In You

Making the Most of
Conference Time


We just completed parent- teacher conferences at my school. I've been doing parent-teacher conferences for 30-plus years now, and I have always found them to be a valuable opportunity to enhance my relationships with the parent and the child. That's because I am a huge advocate of allowing my kindergarten students to sit in on and participate in the parent-teacher-child conferences that I conduct.

I'm a firm believer that a child's personality and belief system is being developed from a very early age. So why not place our children on the road to success by letting them be part of these important conferences? As I discuss the child's academic, social, and developmental progress with the parent and the child, that child sees that the parent is very much concerned about their education. In addition, the child begins to see and value at an early age the importance of education.

[content block] That said, there are times when I do not include a child in at least part of the conference. One for-instance from my recently completed conferences offers an example


As I completed one of this year's conferences with a father and daughter, the father asked if we might speak alone for a few minutes. With that cue, I invited his daughter to "go over to the Puzzle Center and work on a few puzzles for Mr. Ashby." As the girl departed our conference table, Dad became immediately teary-eyed. I sat down with him, offered a bottle of water, and listened carefully as he informed me that he and his wife had recently separated and his heart was breaking with concern for how his daughter was reacting to the breakup.

I was able to let him know that his daughter seemed to be doing well. Yes, she had shared one day how "my Mommy and Daddy don't live together any more. They kept yelling and fighting all the time." And I let this father know that I gave his daughter a big hug when she shared that news. I told her I was sorry about what was happening at home, that she was going to be okay, and that "Mr. Ashby still loves you very much."

I also realized that I needed to say something positive and helpful to this Dad at this challenging moment.

"I know and understand your pain at this time, and I do hope that things will work out for your family," I said. "I want to commend you on the love, interest, and caring that you continue to show for your daughter. Your presence here today is very reassuring to her. She sees that her Dad is still here for her and that he loves her very much."

I knew this father would stay involved in his daughter's relationship, which is why I felt comfortable sharing with him that in my many years of teaching I have been involved with many families who have gone through breakups. Many times, I told him, fathers might leave and not return, or they might stay out of the picture for a long period of time. That's when this father turned and looked at me and said, "Oh no, Mr. Ashby, not me. I will always be here for my child and you can count on that."

That's what I expected to hear from this dad, but I was still relieved to hear it.

As we wrapped up the conference, the Dad turned to me and gave me a big hug.

"You know, Mr. Ashby, thank you for the conference, but thank you for your words of encouragement too."


As I drove home from school that evening, I revisited the day's conferences in my mind. I reflected as I have so many times in my career on the importance of relationships -- not only the relationships I have with my students, but the relationships I have with their parents too.

The conferences that day -- especially the one I have shared here -- reinforced in my mind how important parent conferences are to we EduCarers. They are a time to discuss a child's progress as well as an opportunity to connect with parents and further understand the challenges, situations, and experiences that our students are exposed to in their lives.

Conferences offer an opportunity for us to use our keen listening powers to learn about our students' lives. The more we understand about our students, the more we can become the caring teachers they need -- the true EduCarers they deserve.

The Power Is in You!

Carlton Ashby can be emailed at [email protected].

Article by Carlton Ashby Education World®
Copyright © 2008 Education World

Article posted 12/18/2008