Saturday, April 4, 2015

Parents and Teachers Meet in a New York Minute (or 5 if They’re Lucky) -

Parents and Teachers Meet in a New York Minute (or 5 if They’re Lucky) -

Parents and Teachers Meet in a New York Minute (or 5 if They’re Lucky)

NEA - Try This: The New Parent-Teacher Conference

 On parent-teacher conference day at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan last week, scores of tense parents bunched together in the lobby, penned in behind yellow caution tape. At exactly 1 p.m., the tape dropped and the grown-ups stampeded up the stairs, jostling to get to the front of the pack.

“It’s like the running of the bulls in Pamplona,” said Randi Amick, the mother of a junior, before disappearing down a hallway.
In middle and high school, most New York City public school teachers have at least 150 students, and so the few hours each year set aside for formal conferences become an exercise in orderly chaos.
Parents must bolt from one floor to another lest they miss their strategically chosen time slots, based on a mental algorithm of distance between rooms and the demand for each teacher. Students, enjoying a touch of power, stand sentry at doorways, telling parents when their five minutes (or usually less) are up. Teachers must be prepared to summarize any of their students at any moment, and occasionally, they describe the wrong one.
Parents wait their turn to speak with a teacher during parent-teacher conferences at Stuyvesant. CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times
“Use your time wisely,” said an email sent to parents at Middle School 51 in Brooklyn, which encouraged them to prioritize, to space out appointments and to keep time by their cellphones to avoid being late. “Due to time constraints, all conferences are strictly limited to three minutes each.”
Carmen Fariña, the city’s schools chancellor, has made encouraging parent involvement a centerpiece of her administration, and in many schools, an extra 40 minutes each week has been built into the teacher contract for “parent engagement.” Some schools offer English-language classes or cooking lessons to get parents in the door. Nonetheless, the rapid-fire parent-teacher conference, the most traditional form of parent outreach, remains a fixture.
Experienced parents say a good deal of strategy is involved in getting as many slots as possible, and to space them in such a way that you can be at the appointed classroom when your name is called. If you are not, you will be skipped, and some list monitors are less flexible than others about rescheduling.
Those monitors are generally children.
At Stuyvesant, a sophomore girl curled up in a desk outside an Advanced Placement world history classroom, keeping time on her phone. When time was up, she would poke her head in the doorway and wave. Other time’s-up signals at her school included knocking on the door frame, holding up a beeping kitchen timer and, outside one social studies classroom, clanging a cowbell.
“It’s a little like the Oscars with the music ushering you offstage,” said Wendi Devlin, the parent of a Stuyvesant freshman and a former teacher herself.
Parents are generally well behaved, students said, though a monitor reported that one had dropped a four-letter bomb upon learning a slot hadParents and Teachers Meet in a New York Minute (or 5 if They’re Lucky) -