During the conference I ask the students to lead. Then the parents can ask questions of me, once they understand what the student is doing in terms of behaviour, attitude and academics.
One is always thrown by certain questions. After a 20 minute presentation to be asked, “How is my child doing?” As if we can fake what is going on in the student’s portfolio of work. I ensure that we keep rough drafts to show progress.

This week I was thrown by a question. The parent thought the child’s marks were too low. I re-explained the rubrics: level 3 means “achieving at grade level”, which translates to 75%. Level 4 means that the child is exceeding grade level expectations.

One father explained that he would spend an hour and a half re-teaching algebra, for example, and at that point his child understood it. He thought that I wasn’t teaching it very well and needed to re-teach it.

After the father began to explain how he thought I was not teaching well enough, I knew I was getting a little upset. I told him that I would take his advice into consideration. Unfortunately, he wasn’t finished. I excused myself, saying that I wanted to get a pen and paper to write this down. In truth, I wanted a moment to get myself together. Returning to the seat I had vacated, I wrote down a few words. He proceeded to go on about a particular problem and how he explained it to his son. I then interrupted and asked him, since I had other families in the room working on their student-led conferences, if he would write these things down for me at home.

I was so shocked. What can you say when a parent wants to tell you how to do your job? I could have defended my teaching and my teaching practice. I did not. I believe that this parent ahs the child’s best interests at heart. I do not believe that HE believes that he understands learners, learning and the learning process. The behaviour of a child in a class of 25 is very different one-on-one with a loving parent who has know this child, his learning style and in the peace and quiet of a home. I had to hold onto all this, while not becoming upset. I can just imagine me going into a lawyer’s office and proceeding to tell the lawyer who is working with me how to handle my case.

I let it all go and we then went over to the computer to show the family the child’s web page. I must admit that I could not help but show the work we had done with much pride. What is really funny is that I had taken digital photos of the work we had done in class on algebra. We worked through 25 questions together. Brainstorming solutions, I was modeling my thinking, purposefully putting down the wrong answers, seeking student corrections, working through to the right answer. It was one of the best lessons I had taught, since I had worked with a couple of learners, asking them to solve the problems with me on the board. They are allowed to use “lifelines’ and get help if, for example, they are trying to figure out an algebra problem and they are stuck on the details of (8 x 9). This really works for me and for the learner trying to master algebra, rather than times tables.

While we were doing our tour of the website I showed the father the other work other students had been doing. Some of my students have created honourable, simple, websites. Other sites are exemplary, incorporating sound and flashy images, with a great deal of content and 3 or 4 page stories. I have different expectations for each child. Being fair does not mean treating everyone the same. "THERE IS NOTHING SO UNFAIR AS THE EQUAL TREATMENT OF UNEQUALS" I teach everyone differently, depending upon what they need.