In an effort to get parents to “take an interest” in their child’s education, a prosecutor in Detroit is developing an ordinance that could land some parents in jail — or stick them with a hefty fine. Is an over-the-top punishment really the best way — or even an adequate way — to get parents to step foot in school for a teacher conference?
I think not.
Wayne County prosecutor Kim Worthy issued a statement saying that her goal isn’t to lock up parents and guardians; rather, she’s using the law to give them an incentive to show up to at least one meeting per year.
Really? An incentive? Seems like their offers of $25,000 of Target gift cards might go a little further. And also? How about making the school a less hostile and more welcoming place? Unfortunately — and to the detriment of generations — school has been a negative, punitive place for many, many people. It’s a place where they have zero good associations, where as kids they suffered punishment, experienced failure. Where they got out as fast as they could. Even as adults, some people are, simply put, scared of schools. Equating them with jail time will hardly solve that.
Instead — whether it’s convenient or not, fair or not, the way you lead your life or not — schools have to meet the parents where they’re at. Parent-teacher conferences first and foremost have to be scheduled at times these slacker parents can come. There needs to be childcare for siblings. There needs to be less top down telling and more back-and-forth discussion. These conferences need to last more than 10 minutes, if necessary. Every year, I come across tips for successful parent-teacher conferences and they all include the idea that the parent needs to sit and listen and really not say much (outside of a few questions prepared in advance — short and sweet). These meetings need to include something positive — they just have to.
No, I don’t envy teachers. No, I can’t imagine ever bailing on a parent-teacher conference. But my own experiences as a former child-student and now as the parent of some have always been quite positive and affirming. I have no reason to fear teachers and principals. I’ve never felt compelled to avoid them. And, no, I don’t think my school experience is universal.