The “Interview”

Posted: October 10, 2014 in Education


Parent-Teacher interviews can make for a long evening.
My school refers to them as “Learning Dialogues” and I’ll admit, I’ve adopted the carefully-constructed phrase.
I even find myself using it with my friends.
*recent conversation*
Friend: Hey, I dropped by last night. No one was home.
Me: Yea, I had learning dialogues until like 9:30p.
Friend: You had what?
I am then forced to use the age-old term.
I also like “Education Exchange” and “Informative Interaction.” – really, anything with alliteration is fine.

The learning dialogues at my school runs over the course of two nights per semester (we have two). The first night runs from 4-9p with a break for dinner, of course. The second night only runs from 4-6:30p. Again, it can make for a long evening.

However, these nights are important. They are important for a few different reasons: 1. You get the parents/guardians that simply want to meet the person in charge of their child’s education (I can totally understand why – I’d be curious too), 2. You get the parents/guardians that want to know why their child is not doing well, and 3. There are in-class issues, which simply need to be discussed because it hinders their child’s learning (#2 and 3 often go hand-in-hand).

There are other reasons, of course, but these are the three I meet the most.

I will get back to these reasons in a moment.

Our learning dialogues are hosted in our school’s gymnasium. Not a single learning dialogues goes by where I am not mocked mercilessly (by my colleagues) for my visual display including my course outlines; short stories packets; and any films, novels, and plays on my course. These are displayed carefully to the side, while I have my list of visiting parents and their child’s grades set in front of me. Out of the 50 individual dialogues, about 90% of the parents will pick up/and or reference the material they see before them. Parents can be visual learners too!…I’d make Howard Gardner happy.

Back to the reasons. The dialogues can be tough. I have 8-minutes to try and explain what my course is about, how their child is doing, and (if the child is not doing well) develop a plan of success for their child. Most parents are not surprised by the results shown so early on in the course (our dialogues are held a month into the semester). But when the parents are surprised, it can be a tough conversation. Many parents want to simply give some extra insight into how successful their child has been in the past and what strategies have worked for them – that information is welcomed with open arms. For my English literature courses, time, effort, and practice are key. I have to try and explain to parents that it’s early in the semester and that there is plenty of time for their child’s grades to improve.

It is an important night and it’s important for parents/guardians to try and attend – though only a limited amount of time slots are given. Subjects like math, science, and English fill up quickly – as they are often viewed as the “core subjects.” The difficult dialogues can be parents with specific inquiries like: How can my child finish the course with an 85% or higher? My immediate response is that the how is up to their child, but I will provide them with the material and assistance they need. If I can reference The Matrix – “I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

I try not to use that precious time to talk too much about my course and certainly time isn’t spent on the behaviour of the student…unless, of course, there is a direct correlation between their behaviour and their learning. Difficult dialogues can be with students who are achieving really high grades too! I remember joking with a parent…
Me: Well, your son is doing very well. He’s currently sitting at a 92%, but I suppose we could talk about why it’s not a 93%…(I chuckled)
Parent: *turns to their son, expressionless* Yea…why is that?
*awkward silence*
I try not to joke too much with parents…

At the end of the dialogues, parents just want to know their child is well taken care of and that the teacher has taken the time to get to know their child. I think we can all understand that.


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