Brianne Gidcumb | November 2014
For the Record: Parent/Teacher Conference Connections
It’s parent-teacher conference season for many educators.
Conferences can be a lonely time for arts teachers. In my first decade of teaching music, I had a handful of parent-teacher conference connections, but for the most part, I sat alone in my classroom for the entirety of those long conference days, feeling sorry for myself that no one wanted to meet with the music teacher. When my district began utilizing an online conference scheduler, my lonely conference days became a thing of the past, as every conference slot was filled with parents wanting to take an active part in their child’s music education.
When I tell people I hold Parent-Teacher Conference Connections, they are often baffled that parents want to meet with the music teacher: “What do they want to know? What do you even talk about?” I can say that it has been an incredibly positive shift for me, from sitting in my music room alone to having face-to-face conversations with parents about their child’s music education. After all, if arts instruction is an important piece of the child’s education, we should encourage communication between parents and arts teachers!
Parent-Teacher Conference Connections
Even with conferences, it is impossible to meet with the families of every child I teach, but 50 conferences are better than none! It has been wonderful to meet families, to be able talk about students with the people who know them best, to share praise and concerns, and to collaborate in the desire to do whatever we can to support students.
Often, the areas for growth that I discuss with parents are things that are being shared in conferences with other teachers, and we can begin to devise a plan to support that For the Record: Parent-Teacher Conference Connections student as a team of teachers and parents, rather than struggling in isolation. Other times, students struggling in general classroom contents have an opportunity to shine through the creativity and expression of the arts. That is feedback that parents need and want to hear.
Additionally, parents are excited to be a part of the music program, and during that face-to-face time, can express their desire to help. “I’d love to help out in any way I can.” “Do you need any supplies?” What can I work on at home with my child to strengthen musical concepts?” “How can we experience music as a family?” Conferences can be a great recruitment tool to involve parent helpers in the music room, and a great vehicle for discussing how to bring music curriculum and concepts into the home.
Conferences are a great opportunity to educate parents about what their children are learning in the arts. My own elementary music education was a sit-and-sing experience, and I find that’s the perspective many parents still have when it comes to their child’s music education. Conferences provide an opportunity to clear up misconceptions about what music class is, as well as to inform parents about standards, practices, and assessments in the arts. None of the home communication I have attempted has really had the same impact as sharing with parents, face-to-face, the vision and the structure of the music education I strive to provide for their children.
I have found conferences to be quite restorative in the midst of a difficult time of the school year. The energy of the beginning of the year has worn off, the days get shorter, the stress of the holidays starts creeping up, and the “autumn blues” take over. However, in spite of the stress of prepping for conferences, the interactions I experience with parents are mini-cures for these blues. Here are a few comments I’d like to share that have warmed my heart and made the effort that goes into conferences so worth it.
“It’s so nice to have a chance to talk about art, music, and PE, because those are things that my student is really excited about.”- I agree! Art, music, and PE are where some kids get to engage in their passion- let’s talk about where kids shine!
“My child loves music, and talks about your class all the time.”- I’m honored that my class was an important enough part of your child’s busy day that he/she felt compelled to bring it home.
“Thank you for all you do for my kids.”- “Thank you” goes a very, very long way in this music teacher’s world.
“I’m a strong supporter of music education.”- How valuable to find some allies in the community!
Arts teachers, if you don’t currently hold conferences, how do you connect with parents?