Option 37. No parent/teacher meetings in senior phase – replace with student/teacher review meetings – parents can shadow.
This might appear to one of the more extreme options to be considered but it’s worth holding back on an immediate reaction until further explained.
By the time students get into the senior phase (the last three years of upper secondary school education) they will have spent 13 years in the formal education system – with at least one, if not two, parent teacher consultations/interviews each year.
Parents are keen throughout that period to know how their child is progressing, know how they can help their child, and generally show an interest in their child’s education. In the early years of education this can be very helpful and builds a strong partnership between the student , the school and the parent.
Yet we still think that by attending parents evenings with our 16 or 17 year old child and think that we can influence them when we get home to up their rate of study or change their attitude to school. Some hope! (I know – because I was that parent!)
So perhaps it is time to consider alternatives?
I wrote a poem when my brother’s son was born which seems quite appropriate for this topic:
A CHILD’S HAND
Take your child by the hand
and hold the future there
Keep him upright if you can
Release him if you dare
It’s this last line which most of us as parents have difficulty with, i.e. letting go.
Yet within a year or two they are off to university, or college, or employment and we no longer have the influence we thought we had when they were at school.
So why is it that we don’t try to prepare young people for that transition from the claustrophobic atmosphere of parental control (even if it is a fallacy) - where we are metaphorically sitting on our child’s shoulder?
The concept of helicopter parents has been well documented in the world of higher education – or “overparenting” – yet we, as parents, have been conditioned over the previous 15 years to think that we have to step in to protect and shape our child’s future.
Perhaps we need to consider breaking this umbilical cord whilst our children are still at school and get them to take more responsibility for their own progress? It’s at this point that the change from parent/teacher consultations to student/teacher consultations begins to take on more of logical perspective.
The idea would be based on a dialogue between the teacher and the student, at a time when the parent is available, but where the parent shadows their child and doesn’t interview the teacher.
In this way the responsibility for the learning process shifts from the parent to the child and the learning partnership between the teacher and the student is reinforced.
Of course, I know that many teachers and students would find this observed discussion to be extremely difficult. The tongue-tied student and the teacher who is uncomfortable speaking to the student as an equal is very easy to imagine. But if well managed through a conversation template. e.g Student: “this how I feel I’m doing in this subject”; “This is how you could help me learn better” and Teacher: “You seem to be having problems with ……..” and “You are showing real promise in ………” and “If you were to try to ……………….”
The role of the parent is essentially observational but could have a concluding element where the student speaks to their parent in front of the teacher about their progress or otherwise.
I know this seems like a radical idea but when you see how ill-prepared young people really are for going off into the world of higher education or employment then anything which prepares them to be more independent and responsible learners has to be a good thing.