Education

Why some parents can’t make it to the parent-teacher conference

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Photo courtesy of Very Well Health


By Nehemiah Frank, Executive Editor 

There is a certain stigma about the parents of children who attend public schools with a majority ‘urban’ or Black and Latinx student population.

Interestingly, Black and Latinx parents often are depicted as uneducated and incapable of assisting their children with homework.

A teacher bias against a parent of a different culture may be the reason why they are less inclined to reach out to a Black or Latinx parent.

If the child’s parent misses a parent-teacher conference or back-to-school night, the parent’s behavior may be viewed negatively as apathetic and irresponsible parenting. 

At various community meetings, I have heard educators complain about the so-called lack of interest that their parents presumably have for their, own, child’s current academic or behavioral status. 

The familiar slogan that I usually hear is: “Why can’t I get my parents to show up to parent-teacher conferences?” and “Why don’t they care?” 

Let me give you some insight.

Many working-class families merely don’t have the time to be as actively involved with their child’s education like middle- and upper-class families.

Limited resources make it difficult for that additional weekly trip back to back-to-school night. Furthermore, volunteering at the school may seemingly appear like a waste of time or strenuous, stressful, when a second or third job is needed to ‘make ends meet’.

We have to face reality, folks. 

Those days, where the stay at home mom baked cookies in the early afternoon and served them with a cold glass of milk to her children as she supervised and assisted with homework, are to the yesteryears.

It takes two working parents or two or more jobs to pay the bills.

We live in an era of the working-class, a time where the economic gap continues to widen and the middle-class shrinks.

And schools with a majority Black or Latinx student population often see the most disparities in parent engagement.

Social constraints make it difficult for working-class families to participate; thus the underprivileged school suffers from a lack of community support. 

It’s logical to think that parents merely need to sign-up as PTA (Parent Teacher Association) volunteers, but once again, that takes time, as well, and could cause additional stress for a working-class family. 

One study found that “Working-class parents and their children commonly experience school in terms of conflict and stress, requiring a different kind of emotional capital.” The study defines the framework for emotional capital as parents “keeping their children safe, soothing feelings of failure and low self‐worth, and challenging injustice.” 

Some working-class families don’t feel welcomed or part of a school’s community because of the size of the school or district. Therefore, schools must work harder at creating a culture of inclusivity for groups that may feel marginalized.

Furthermore, teachers that don’t live in the neighborhood and may be of a different race or culture could seemingly, themselves, be the cause of barriers between the parent-teacher relationship. 

If I could be frank, teachers should go out of their way to ensure that Black and Latinx parents feel involved and connected. It will tighten the accountability gap that often occurs between the student, teacher, and parent.

The teachers of today have to cut working-class families, that are disproportionately Black and Latinx, some slack. 

They are trying, and they care. 

Perhaps, teachers should be doing more to reach out to the parents. After all, technology is every even to most working-class families.


Nehemiah Frank Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and executive editor of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Oklahoma State University. A rising voice in America and an emerging leader in the education reform movement, Nehemiah frequently travels for speaking engagements around the country, is a blogger for Education Post, and has been featured on NBC as well as in Blavity and Tulsa People. Nehemiah is also a teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts in Tulsa, OK, a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He gave a TED Talk at The University of Tulsa in the spring of 2018 and is currently on the Editorial Community Advisory Board at the Tulsa World. 

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Categories: Education