Feedback Matters: An Open Plea to All Teachers

I have just recently completed another round of parent teacher conferences. My sons are freshman and sophomores in high school so that means I have attended approximately 42 (2 per year) of these in the course of my sons’ academic careers. Given that this is not a new experience for me, one would think that I have become accustomed, if  not exactly accepting, of the futility of this exercise. I haven’t.

Before I go any further you should know that I have dedicated my career to education. I taught school for many years and have worked in schools as an administrator for more than 20. My mom was a teacher and my best friend is a teacher. So don’t get me wrong I know how hard the job is, I know that there are many demands on  teachers and that students’  needs are incredibly complex, but I need to ask all teachers out there to stop using generic phrases when discussing the progress of children.  Parent teacher conferences don’t offer any substantive information when phrases like “study more”, or he just needs to “try harder” are the biggest take aways.  These generic euphemisms aren’t limited to the areas where improvement is needed.  While I am glad that my son “participates well in class” this doesn’t help me build on his strengths.  What I want to know when I sit down in front of you is what specific concepts my son understands, which one’s is he struggling with and what can I do at home to support him in building a deeper understanding. While I may not know how to speak the world language that he is taking, and quadratic formulas are a distant memory, sharing with me which major concepts in the class my son has mastered and which he is struggling with are what I want and my son desperately needs to know. Without this information it is difficult if not impossible to know how to help him. We both need to know this.

So I am asking all educators out there to stop using the following terms when talking with parents about their children’s progress. Ban these phrases from your vocabulary and replace them with feedback that will help  children grow.

  • try harder
  • tries hard
  • study more
  • needs to slow down
  • participates well in class
  • follow the study guide
  • make sure to look it up on my website
  • pleasant student
  • is overtired, just needs some rest
  • works well with others


October 29, 2015

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