In our children, we see the future of our culture. That future, viewed through the eyes of our children, is bright and full of hope. The raising up of children within a cultural context requires frequent communication between parents and teachers. It is important to occasionally pause and reflect on this partnership. Our upcoming Parent Teacher Conferences are one of our best opportunities to do this.
At your conference this week, you will find yourself in what Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot terms a “sanctified space.” Lightfoot, a professor of education at Harvard since the 1970s, brings to mind the Jewish concept of kadosh, of sanctity and holiness. In Judaism, we mark sanctity by distinction from the daily, from the regular. In this sense, Lightfoot is correct in her nomenclature. Our conferences are unlike all other interactions we have as partners; indeed, they are distinct and kadosh. (For more from Lightfoot, see her recent reflection in the WSJ about her career as a teacher)
Conferences are our private, intimate, chance to share the successes and challenges that our children face. We use this sanctified space to ensure that we are partnering to provide the optimal developmental environment. By sharing our observations of moments of mastery and moments of struggle, we can with honesty and candor ensure that our care reflects and supports our children’s individual journeys. Only by sharing our thoughts in a sanctified space is this possible.
Following your parent-teacher conferences, you will receive a short, concise written statement about your child’s development in class this year. This document will be sent in mid-May, and will include a focus on your child’s areas of strength, areas of interest, and areas for ongoing growth. We believe that child development cannot, and should not, be reduced to a series of finite goals or milestones. Our hope is that through your conversation with your teachers, and the ensuing written statement, we will be able to share with you the complex ways in which we have come to understand your child this year.
Having led many parent-teacher conferences during my time as a teacher at our school, I can speak with personal honesty that these are very special moments during the year, not only for you as parents but for our teachers as well. We put a great deal of preparation into each conversation and look forward to the moments we share together discussing your child. It is a daunting task, to take the complexities of a child, learned by the teacher through intense observation and documentation over the course of the year, and open them up during a short conversation. We see these parent-teacher conferences as sanctified moments that highlight an ongoing and open partnership with each parent in the classroom.
Please note that some of our conferences will be taking place in other rooms in the building. If this is the case for your conference, you have already been notified by your classroom teacher. Thank you for understanding that this is due to the shared nature of space in the JCC in order to accommodate the many wonderful programs that take place here daily.