A posting managed in the gaps between meetings with parents: I am writing this on Parents’ Day, a Saturday that my school (in Hong Kong) gives over to meetings with students and their parents at which report “cards” are distributed. Actually, they are not cards at all, but a page of scaled summaries and narrative comments by the teachers. Each teacher (like me) has a number of “advisees” whom he monitors, trying to get the big academic and extracurricular picture of each. The advisor hands out the reports at Parents’ Day meetings and is also available as a subject teacher for more detailed conversation on students’ subjects if parents wish it.
(The reports are prepared over a period of weeks, allowing for the accumulation of needed detail and the correction of mistakes. Exams are returned to students beforehand, also with ample time for care and detail in the marking.)
My duties are comparatively light this year: I am teaching only Grade 12, whose exams and reports follow a different schedule to accommodate the demands of exams by the Hong Kong Education Bureau and the International Baccalaureate Organization. I occasionally have a G12 drop-in, but it’s the younger students’ parents who attend these meetings more assiduously.
The usual Chinese practice is for the student and his parents to meet the teacher together. It is a great way to gain some understanding of the family dynamic that lies behind the student’s work. It also provides a chance, if need be, for the parents and teacher to conduct a full-court press on matters of concern. It is rarely or never a time for adversarial contests, confrontations or scenes. If the parents have some doubt about a teacher, they usually seek administrators’ advice in separate meetings, or meet with the teachers privately. And if by the time of Parents’ Day a serious academic or disciplinary issue has already developed, chances are that the parents would already have been called in for a meeting.
Having the meetings on a Saturday makes it more likely that both parents will attend, though some students come with mother or father only. One exception was my first meeting of the morning, with a Grade 10 student and his mother, who had set up a Face Time link with the father at work in Singapore. That was a first for me: talking to a screen as well as two live collocutors. The meeting was productive and helpful as a result of its being a four-way conversation, but I can see why people who can possibly do so prefer live meetings to e-meetings. (And why teachers and students should prefer live classes to e-classes!)