How can teachers have a successful parent teacher conference with an angry Black parent?

In a recent article, a local school is offering a new format for parent teacher conferences. The new format provides strategies for dispersing troubled news to parents regarding their children. The new format is absent of strategies that helps teachers to have successful parent teacher conferences with angry Black parents.

According to the article on parent teacher conferences, instead of having an open format in the gym, teachers will set up meetings with parents of students who are failing, not on track to graduate or have issues such as poor attendance or not working to potential.

“It will be more of an invitational model,” said Principal Kurt Glathar.

Meetings will be 15 minutes, not five, and will be in classrooms, with students encouraged to attend.

“The whole idea here is not to create anxiety or a situation where parents feel they’re on the hot seat,” Glathar said. “The idea is to create a situation where parents feel we want to team up with them.”

Holding the conferences in the classroom — where elementary school conferences have been for years — will allow teachers to give parents a better idea of what happens in class, especially if it’s a hands-on subject such as art or engineering, he said. It also will offer more privacy than trying to have a conversation with a teacher while a line of other parents stands within earshot.

What is the first issue that be should considered when facilitating a parent teacher conference with a angry Black parent?

Teachers should first consider the classroom relationships that they have with the children. Parents will often seek the opinion of their child regarding the teacher. Contrary to public opinion, children have a good idea of what makes a good teacher. Teachers who are favored by parents often, greet all children daily as they enter the classroom. Have a sense of humor that keeps children interested and makes learning enjoyable, use visual aids to enhance instruction. Organize and arrange for short-range goals and objectives, with the intent on meeting the long-range goals. Communicate daily with struggling students and weekly for all others. Give parents their home phone numbers, so they know the teacher is always accessible.

Children will also make personal comments regarding their teachers. The child may tell their parent that Mr. or Mrs. [Teachers name] takes the time to explain things to me. The teacher makes learning fun. The teacher makes the other students behave so that we can all work and learn. Or, the teacher is always happy. This will help parents to feel confident in the teacher. In order for parents to believe that the teacher is doing a good job their child must think that the teacher is doing a good job.

However, if the children say things such as the teacher is mean, shows favorites, or won’t listen to their side of the story, then the first impression the parents have will be negative.

Black parents will take exception with the teacher if they believe that the teacher is unfair with their grading system, discipline, and treatment of their child.

Before you have a parent teacher conference with an angry Black parent, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are there any occasions where I have graded students unfairly?
  • Have I provided my students every opportunity to enhance their grade?
  • Have I documented the times that I have attempted to contact the parent?
  • Have I documented both academic and disciplinary counseling sessions for the student in question?
  • Do I have the same discipline process for each disciplinary infraction?
  • Have I documented each time that I gave the student in question a break on discipline
  • Is there any circumstance that it could be said that I have discriminated against any students in my class.

A successful parent teacher conference with an angry Black parent will require that the teacher exhibit fairness in their grading system and discipline.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.