Parents Night

Maryann Ziemba, 9th grade U.S. History, Millis High School

While teachers make the appropriate accommodations and modifications for their students based on individual learning abilities, we need to recognize differences among parents. They too do not fall under a “one size fits all” category.

My opportunity to assess “parental types” comes during Open House Night.  As a 9th grade teacher, my parent/guardian turnout tends to be on the lower end. Freshmen may forget to tell their parents or beg their parents not to go, or parents are truthfully unable to come.  I have my routine down, my photocopies made, and my bubbly personality boiling over.

As the parents enter my classroom I examine their facial expressions, test the grip of their handshake, analyze their behaviors, and observe their attentiveness. Immediately I see no two parents are alike. I can actually code my parents into four categories: the interested parent, the bored parent, the tired parent, and finally the no-show parent.

My interested parents are those who attend and are genuinely delighted with everything I have to offer. The bored parents are not as delighted, yet still appreciative. The tired ones usually glance at the clock often or keep edging out of the desk waiting to flee due to a long day at work. When the evening is over I reflect on my over-the-top animated presentation and the parental subgroups I formulated. My thoughts, however, circle around the only group that I was unable to observe that evening: The no-show parents.

All too often those parents who attend Open House are the parents that I will usually hear from (say when the family is going on vacation) or those that I will smile and nod to at a home basketball game.  Some of my no-show parents, however, I will only get to know after a concerning issue arises.  For example, the mother I phoned the week after Open House about her student’s misbehavior in my classroom had not come to Open House.

In the end, my experience enforces the necessity of parental communication. Next year I will meet a new set of parents, all in different ways. My goal is to learn from the students if their parents are not coming to Open House, and then make an introduction phone call, as oppose to waiting for a situation like this one to surface. It may be awkward, time consuming, or even an absolute delight, but it will never be a wrong decision.

Just like my students, some parents need a little more individual attention and a modified approach.