Arlington teachers confer more

By Eric Stevick

Herald Writer

ARLINGTON — In Arlington, parent-teacher conferences don’t end at the middle school door.

Six years ago, the school district recognized that parents yearned for one-on-one time with their children’s teachers and brought them to middle school.

This fall, Arlington High School, taking a lesson from younger grades, opened its gym as well, meaning parents with children from kindergarten through their senior year now have a forum to discuss their students’ progress.

Marjy Chilelli, for one, is thankful.

Chilelli has a freshman at AHS and an eighth-grader at Post Middle School. She met with teachers from both schools in November, learning not just about how they are doing but what they are doing in school.

Often, students are short on details with Mom and Dad about what they are studying in school. "It’s just another tool to help your child," she said.

It’s a sentiment expressed by other parents.

"We are not done being parents just because they are in middle school," said Liz Moore, who has been on both sides of the table at the parent-teacher conferences.

Last week, Moore met with parents in her role as a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Post. Three weeks ago, she was the parent asking questions of her 16-year-old son’s teachers at Arlington High School.

As a parent, she learns what to ask her son so she doesn’t have the "How’s school? Fine" conversation.

To Moore, the value of the conferences is not just the immediate information parents get from teachers.

"Parents send a real clear message to their kids that education is very important when they take the time to come to these events and also show that they care about their child," Moore said.

Holly Harris, a Post teacher, believes the conferences can reassure parents with middle schoolers that it’s OK to continue following their children even if they are becoming more independent.

"This is the point that we need parent involvement the most," Harris said.

At the middle school and high school, teachers, parents and sometimes students sat across from one another for six to 10 minutes in afternoon and night sessions. They discussed everything from how the student was performing in class to what may be happening at home.

Ed Richards, who teaches eighth graders at Post, particularly likes having the parent and student at the table. "Then you are not talking about him, you are talking with him," he said.

At Arlington High School, about 600 report cards were distributed at parent-teacher conferences Nov. 8. That represented about 43 percent of the student body in the school’s first attempt.

Setting up meant moving 90 tables and 600 chairs to the gym. Parents began showing up long before the first of two sessions.

"One of the things we have been accused of as educators for a long, long time is it seems we live in a vacuum," said Bob Penny, the AHS principal. "This was our effort to bridge the home and the school. It’s something that needs to be done and should be done."

You can call Herald Writer Eric Stevick at 425-339-3446 or send e-mail to stevick@heraldnet.com.

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