Charge the Edu-Mountain!

Drawing a stampede of elephants?  Not easy.

Drawing a stampede of elephants? Not easy.

If you don’t speak Spanish, the Tiger Lady is basically saying, “Be Careful!” Good advice with an an elephant stampede on the horizon, even if you are nigh invulnerable. Elephants can still kick you around a bunch, and carry an incredible amount of momentum.

So what’s the elephant stampede about? Metaphorically speaking? Good question, True Believers.

Tonight was parent conference night. Parents can come by for individual conferences about their student’s progress, in a four hour long “drop in” system. For years now, I have done the parent conferences with a team of teachers, usually numbering from four to six. This was my first time in a decade doing the conferences “solo,” with the Tiger Lady across the hall, more or less. Hence, the composition.

Doing this myself was a “back to basics” moment for me. About half of the conferences were conducted in Spanish, and there was no “support” from other teachers. No other grade books, no similar opinions, no corroborating evidence or stories…just me, the grade book, and the parent. It was a bit intimidating at first, but in the end, pretty positive and very liberating. It’s possible that my focus on teamwork for the past several years may have been a flawed theory…the jury is still out on that kind of thing. I’m considering it, though.

All day long, I asked teachers who had been at the Edu-Mountain about what to expect for turnout. “You’ll be lucky to see a dozen,” was one answer, and most people said, “turnout isn’t very good.” I was led to believe that I would be sitting more or less alone, possibly entering grades. All told, I went into the evening a bit cross that I would be there from 4PM to 8PM, with the promise of three conferences per hour as the basic consensus.

I had 42 parent conferences. Forty-Two.

It was HUGE. Mind you, that still is only about twenty five percent of my schedule of students, but the numbers were impressive. The Tiger Lady weighed in at 36, also impressive. Those numbers were literally 3 to 4 times the amount that most people said there would be.

Of those conferences, one two were negative. The two that were negative wound up being ROUGH. I didn’t start off rough, but when a students chooses to comport themselves, in a parent conference, as if I am one of their sophomore class friends, then let me tell you…it is ON. With the full weight of the gradebook, and missing assignments, it is amazing what a teacher can simply lay out on the table, in spreadsheet form, as STRAIGHT UP FACT. Still, that’s five percent of the conferences being a “get your act together” kind of thing, which is great.

The rest were…pleasant and charming. Going over ideas for college, explaining that students produced very solid written work. Assuring parents that their students were in fact “good kids.” Double checking to make sure my young charges were doing well in all their other classes, and generally being a congenial professor. In truth…good times.

So…what are the elephants about?

Well…the structure of the whole night is…disorganized. Parents arrive in sudden waves, waves of activity. One moment, your room is empty and had been for ten minutes or so. The next, you have started a conference, and have a line forming of some six to seven parents. There are waves of stampedes, although the stampedes were only volume based, not angry or adversarial. I chose regular elephants because they are big and powerful, but ultimately friendly family based animals. Also, unlike the other characters in the Edu-Mountain setting, they are Old School powerful…traditional, lets go @#$% with Tarzan, Conan, or Legolas kind of powerful. The don’t NEED to be super-evolved creatures…their power comes from an older, more direct source.

Which sums up how I feel about parents, really. They have power in education through the basic contract with teachers. The agreement that says, “I’m giving you my child. I expect you to keep them safe, look out for them, and return them to me, intellectually improved.” That’s what the job is about, and as a result, parents are big, important figures in that system. They are, after all entrusting us with the things they care most about.

The art is great, and I’m very proud of it. The day was wonderful….but at this point, writing the post…I am exhausted. Time to sleep for a bit, before the final school day of the week.


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