In elementary school in Orange County, we give students a grade from 1-4 on progress reports and report cards.
I personally do not care for this scale because of how subjective it can be. I always have parents who say “My student had all 4’s last year, why do they have 3’s now?” This is just one of the difficult conversations I have at parent teacher conferences after the first progress report goes home each year.
I just finished parent teacher conferences for the first nine weeks. I feel like over the years, I always have the same conversations with my parents at these conferences. “They teach things much differently than they did when I was in school.” “I can’t help my child because I don’t know how you taught it in school.”
I always try to encourage my families to teach their children different methods at home and that it can be helpful to understand the same concept from multiple perspectives. I also try to encourage my Latino families to read in Spanish to their children at home, because they often express that they can’t help with homework when it is in English. However, I feel like families are always hesitant to teach their children different ways than they are learning at school.
Recently, I had the same conversation with two parents who were concerned about their child’s writing grade on his progress report. Both parents said, “I have tried to work with ______ on his handwriting, but I know it is still sloppy.” I had to explain that he does not have a 2 in writing because of his handwriting but because the content of his writing. They seemed more concerned about their child’s penmanship than the quality of writing their student can produce.
I also always have parents complain that students bring library books home that are not on their level. I try putting my explanation for this in my newsletter at the beginning of the school year.
I explain to parents that their books in bag are books on their level. Students get to choose these books, but they must be on their level so they don’t always get the books they want. For example, Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Goosebumps, and Bad Kitty books are popular books from my classroom library, but they are all at a pretty high level. Few students are allowed to get these for their books in a bag. Since I restrict what books students can get for those books, I allow them free choice for library books. This allows them to check out these popular books and read them in their free time. At recent conferences, I had a couple parents ask if I could try to encourage their child to check out books on their level because they can’t read the books they check out. Another parent said, “She keeps coming home with these comic books, and I tell her she needs to be reading real stories.” I told her that graphic novels are a great way to engage students and told her about my work at UNC with graphic novels. I try to explain that I don’t try to discourage choices if they are excited about what they are reading. Students get plenty of practice with text on their level, and it is okay if they are reading books that are too difficult for fun and enjoyment.
How do you shift parents’ thinking about schooling? What conversations do you find difficult?