Monday was the start of parent teacher conferences (PTC). We’ve known about them for a few weeks and they are happening all week. Lucky me I had all of mine scheduled for the first day.
My day started with a weekly Monday meeting where the principal forgot that I had conferences. An already hectic schedule with half the school on field trips to an “English Library” caused her to be even more flustered when I pointed out the error. Luckily it was just wrong on her notes; the teachers & parents all had the days correct.
My class ate snack immediately after coming to school and left for their field trip by 10:00. I went downstairs to meet my first conference in Mrs. Yi’s office. Mary & I were set up in the principals office all morning while another class had a small conference room and the 3rd class used the cooking room. The trend seems to be that Korean teachers deal with all the nervousness while us foreigners are pretty relaxed about the whole experience.
Maybe its because the teachers I spoke to have been doing conferences for a few years, maybe its the language barrier, or perhaps its because the Korean teachers speak to parents every day and really know what to expect! All I knew is that I prepared for it and was bringing some of the academic games and copies of the phonics evaluations from a few weeks ago.
My first conference went swimmingly well. It happened to be the dad of one of my best students; we spoke for a few minutes about the changes I made in the class and how his daughter is very high academically. I was happy to find out he spoke English very well and he was very happy with the transition from the old teacher.
Each conference was scheduled for 15 minutes, they usually ran a few minutes late but I had 3 no shows so the morning went by in a timely manner. It turned out that most of the parents couldn’t speak English! They all understood me as long as I spoke slowly but only 2 other parents didn’t require Mary to translate.
I began each conference by handing out a copy of their child’s phonics evaluation, a paragraph about their student’s performance and a few general paragraphs about the changes that I made upon taking over Flamingo Class. They were all very happy with my explanation of centers & our morning meeting and how their child was doing so I would opened the floor for questions or concerns.
In between one conference Mary and I were discussing Korean food and I mentioned that I wanted to start making my own lunch. I asked her where I should get bread around here and, of course, she said “a bakery.” Well, low and behold the next parent brought us each a loaf of bread! Okay, so maybe it was more like a pound cake but that didn’t stop me from asking Mary where to get steak and crossing my fingers. We both laughed as the next parent walked in without any steak.
The most common question from parents was about their child’s friends. Did they have any? Who did they play with? I got an unusual number of questions about my “favorite” student. It was odd to have parents ask about students other than their own during conferences but they were concerned that “certain students” were too physical and distracting to their own child. I tried to answer while keeping as much privacy about individual students as possible and reassured each parent that ALL of the students are working on personal space and that they are ALL improving. I think they realized that their own kids were culprits to this on occasion and quickly moved on to the next questions.
My “favorite” student’s mom was a very smooth conference too. I let her know that academically her son was very strong but socially he needed a lot of work. We spoke about his earning chart and how his behavior fluctuates daily. She completely agreed and thanked me for everything we were doing and pointed out that it isn’t a lack of ability but rather a lack of desire to complete his
work. Mary and I agreed with her and mentioned a few other ways we were trying to motivate her son before we had to move on to next parent who was patiently waiting outside.
Each conference worked in the same fashion and although I felt they were easy to do I was certainly happy to be done with them! I’ve taken part in dozens of conferences back in America and outside of the language barrier these were very similar. I imagine they are pretty close to a standard bilingual conference back in America. If you are thinking about coming to teach in Korea or going elsewhere abroad I wouldn’t worry too much about the conferences. As long as you keep a creative English class the ESL parents will love what you are doing. Don’t forget to follow any curriculum you are provided with but it seems all too common for schools to rely on you to come u with everything.