I finished up my observations for my Literacy Accross the Content Areas class last week. However, the teacher I was observing allowed me to sit in on conferences today. Half, literally half, of her (3) 8th grade ELA students received an "E". Remember, this is an "at risk" school, and in our district (possibly in the State of Michigan, though I'm not sure), students in middle school do not get held back except upon the absolute insistence of their parents. At this school, most parents are not involved and the students know they're going to move up to the next grade no matter what, so why try?
Anyway, I went into the conferences thinking that the parents that would show up would be the ones with the "A" students, and the parents that we would have liked to see (the "E" students) would not show up. I was pleasantly surprised.
About 8 parents came during the 3 hours I was there: 2 had "A" students and the rest had "D" and "E" students. Of these, one of the students was a former special-ed now mainstreamed student. Other than that, only one parent came that fit into my preconceived mold of a parent that could care less- he just showed up to go through the motions. He actually laughed and smiled through the whole thing.
The other parents seemed to really care and be distressed about their children. A couple seemed to be at the end of their rope, they just didn't know what to do. Otherwise, based on the type of parenting I saw exhibited, I was rather surprised at the fact that the students failed the marking period.
I have been of the thinking, generally speaking, that if a parent is involved in their child's life and education, the child will succeed in school. Today, that was really challenged. There are a whole breadth of circumstances that I have yet to learn about (and probably won't learn until I have my own classroom) that make kids not understand the importance of school that is beyond a parent's locus of control.
Sadly, there was one parent of an "A" student who was borderline berating her daughter for not getting an "A+". Luckily, the girl had a good head on her shoulders and seemed to know how to handle the mom and not let it get to her.
Ultimately, my views were challenged today. But, instead of frustrating me, I must admit to being a bit inspired by the experience.
I can't wait to have my own classroom.