In a recent article, author Elissa Nadworny, suggest several tips that could enhance the teacher-parent conference experience for parents. The recommendations are absent of the experiences faced by many Black students and parents. Teacher-parent conferences can become meaningful when they take into consideration the community that the teacher serves.

According to the article, How To Make the Most Of Your 10 Minutes With The Teacher, parents need to focus on three major areas which include the child, the classroom, and the future. The article suggests that during the teacher-parent conference the parent provide information of their home life. The parent should describe what the interests of the child are and what the home life is like. This is a grievous error because it assumes that the teacher has not taken the opportunity to better know their students. Teachers need to become more astute of the perceptions that students may have regarding their teacher.

What are the perceptions that students have regarding teachers which could enhance teacher-parent conferences?

When incorporating students into a marginalized society by slavery, conquest, and colonization, students believe school is detrimental to their identity. Indians, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Blacks share the same experience of having been transported into the United States against their will and then relegated to a subordinate status. Blacks have learned since slavery that the way to get ahead even within the limited universe open to them, the status mobility system is not through merit and talent but through White patronage for which they have developed a high distrust for Whites that includes teachers.

Student perceptions and feelings regarding teachers and themselves influence student achievement. Students do better in school when they believe getting a good education will increase their chances for success. Students who perceive that teachers have favorable feelings toward them have higher achievement levels when teachers have positive views toward them.

The second area recommended by the article is the classroom. The classroom discussion should involve questions about grades and behaviors. Many parents are concerned about the behaviors of teachers which result in discrimination against their children.

What are some of the teacher behaviors that could bring alarm to parents before a teacher-parent conference?

Many parents believe teachers discriminate against students by stereotyping according to ethnicity. Many teachers form negative, inaccurate, and inflexible expectations based on such attributes as the race and perceived social class of their students. White teachers may have difficulty in understanding minorities due to the teachers’ rejection of the students’ lifestyles.

Teachers are more likely to have negative academic and behavioral expectations regarding Black students when compared to expectations of White students. White teachers have more negative attitudes toward Black children and rate Black students more negatively when compared to White students. White teachers rate Black male children more deviant when compared to White children. White teachers direct more criticism toward Black males and rate Black male children personalities more negatively when compared to White male children.

The final area is the future. The article suggests that during the parent-teacher conference parents should ask the question: “How can I help?” Many parents may become reluctant to ask this question because they are not the content area experts. They expect for the teacher to be the expert in the area of education. Many parents are aware that there is a cultural mismatch between the school and their children.

What are some of the school cultural problems that could cause problems before a teacher-parent conference?

The cultural mismatch between students and school is the reason for student academic failure. The attempt at minority student Americanization that involves fixing culturally flawed children by changing their values and language has failed at increasing minority student achievement. The main reason for low minority student achievement in the United States is racism creates a poverty cycle that minority students are unable to break.

Distrust between schools and Blacks results from hostile treatment of Blacks and discrimination in schools. Employment discrimination is the primary source of Black student opposition to schooling.

Blacks discourage school success as a cultural goal and respond by developing survival strategies that contribute to school failure as well as conflict with the schools. Many culturally diverse children learn how to underachieve due to their keen insight, an ability to note inconsistencies, and sensitivity to social injustices, therefore growing wary and critical of the elitist ideology promoted in schools.

Teachers can prepare enhance teacher-parent conferences with Black parents by:

  1. Provide parents with a profile of the student’s academic standing. This should include the assessment outcome of how students learn. Also include the determination of their academic status from a course pretest. While many students will not do well on the pretest, this is an opportunity to talk about how you the teacher will help your students.
  2. Outline your process for developing positive classroom interactions with students
  3. Outline the process that you the teacher used to develop classroom rules with input from the students. This will send Black parents the message that you intend to be fair when it comes to discipline.

Successful teacher-parent conferences with Black parents will include exposing parents to your classroom processes that are intended to be fair and academically enriching for all students.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D. www.positiveracialrelationships.com PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012

 

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