While staying late sitting in my classroom until its dark is not the way I want to spend a day, I do find Parent Teacher Conference Night a way for me to be a better teacher.
I love seeing the family dynamic. Kids can be so funny; they behave one way in the classroom and act completely different around their parents. Seeing how much the parent loves their child is also a reminder that the kid in my class is actually someone's child. They're young and out in the world without their parent next to them, and that is sometimes a scary thing. After I met with one father, I watched him tousle his son's head, say "Let's go, handsome" and my heart just melted. They're not just my students, they're someone's pride and joy. I need to keep that in mind more often.
Some of my students are the family translator. Many of my students have parents that don't speak English, and they translate for them. These kids are taking on an adult job in some ways, being the go-between for their parents and the outside world. There's even students who have an active role in the child care for their little brothers and sisters. They seem so grown up sometimes, when they’re not. I need to keep that in mind too.
I learn a lot about my students, but I also learn about me. I find out ways I could support my students better; what I'm doing or not doing in my classroom to help the learning. It's helpful to listen to the students from their point of view and the discussions they have at home about my class. I can always use some suggestions for improvement.
What is really great is when the parents thank me for the job I'm doing, and tell me how much my students love my class. I know it’s not about me; I teach technology and kids love it anyway, so I can’t take all the credit. It is nice to hear though that my students look forward to my class. Those are the times that make the late nights worth it.