Our school decided to do conferences a few weeks before the end of the first quarter. The main reason was to be able to alert parents about any academic or behavioral issues early enough that they could make changes before the first report cards were sent out at the end of the first quarter. I am grateful that we did not have parent teacher conferences after a normal school day. Instead there was no school on September 15-16 and teachers met with parents during what would normally be the school day.
For the most part, I was very encouraged by my meetings with parents. I could see how dedicated the parents are and how they long to see their children succeed. I was also impressed in many cases at how involved the parents are in terms of their child’s academic work. Unfortunately, in many cases the parents of the students who are struggling the most in my classes did not come to meet with me. One thing I certainly learned through this first round of parent-teacher meetings was how important it is to communicate clearly with parents regarding academic requirements and any behavioral problems. In some cases I realized that I had communicated too little or my communication was not understood by the parents.
This first quarter has taught me how little I really know about teaching. This has been my first quarter ever as a classroom teacher with middle school students. It can be challenging and scary to do something that you have never done before (especially when everyone else expects you to know exactly what you are doing). This reminded me of some advice my dad gave me about teaching. My dad has been a teacher for many years. You can read about his adventures “flipping the classroom” on his blog.
My dad told me a story about a time when he was young and he got a new job as a waiter at a nice restaurant. He said that he had never been a waiter before and he had absolutely no training. Needless to say, his first day on the job he was extremely nervous. He said he was worried he was going to make a mistake because he didn’t know where all the silverware should go and he wasn’t sure he could carry all the plates of food to and from the tables without dropping them or looking foolish. In the midst of his nervousness, however, he decided that he was simply going to focus on being a servant. He decided he would do the very best job he could to serve each customer as best as he could.
Towards the end of the night a couple who was finishing their meal asked to speak with him. They told him that they were very grateful for the way he had served them and that they had been watching as he served other tables also. They both agreed that he was the best waiter they had ever seen!
My dad’s advice to me as a new teacher was that I should do my best to serve my students well. He told me I didn’t have to be an expert or master teacher right away, but if I approached my work with the heart of a servant I would be successful.
To this point I believe I have been able to serve my students well. It can be a challenge when it seems that students do not appreciate or value what you do as a teacher. I have to remind myself to not take it personally when students act as if they don’t care. I want to continue to serve my students well, even if they don’t thank me for it now, because later I think they will!