Parent/Teacher Conferences: Where Were All The Dads?

My youngest has made the big leap from a private school to public school for her high school years and it’s quite interesting. I went to public school throughout my own educational journey; I don’t think I even realized that there were alternatives! My ex, however, went to private school, a rather prestigious K-12 institution in Kansas City with lots of elite, wealthy families. Very different experiences, even through college: she went to a private college, Trinity University, while I went to a public college, UC San Diego.

empty high school hallway

In my daughter’s private school, there were frequent communications with teachers and the academic journey centered on a single “main lesson” teacher. We met with him for updates every 6-8 weeks and for the middle school years I was the class parent so actually communicated with K-‘s class teacher almost daily!

Switch to high school and the student population goes up by multiples; from a class of 19 she’s now in a 9th grade class of about 550 children, which means that any given teacher has quite a crew of students in each of their many classes. Parent teacher conferences are a big deal, because it’s one of the very few times that parents get to meet with their children’s teachers and it only occurs twice each school year. I presume that if there are academic or behavioral issues, the meetings occur more frequently, but >knock on wood< so far, so good.

That’s why when I signed us up for a full retinue of meetings with K-‘s various teachers, I thought that it’d be difficult to get easily managed time slots and that school would be full of parents when we finally did get there. Both assumptions proved to be false, and as you can see, it turned out a very straightforward schedule:

high school parent teacher conference appointments list

Why the gaps? Because the classes are not all in the same place. In fact, her school is pretty darn huge, with five distinct wings focused on different subject areas. Getting around can be tricky if you don’t plan ahead!

What shocked me more was the experience of going from class to class, meeting with teachers, and finding out just how few fathers were present. I know, there are single parents, and since our meetings were during the workday, there were probably a number of fathers who were unable to attend the conferences. But really, to walk down empty hallways and see mom & child, mom & child in meetings or sitting waiting for their appointment was rather distressing.

As the afternoon transpired, we did see one or two fathers and when I asked a few teachers about the situation, one said that she had been surprised when a meeting was with a father and son, no mom present. But no question, at least 75% of the parent/teacher conferences we saw were teacher + mom + child.

Which leads to the obvious question: where the heck were the dads? Personally, I don’t get it. Even if I had a corporate job, being able to know weeks in advance that the appointments were on the calendar would allow me to prioritize and ensure that I was there for my child. Seems rather like something from the 50’s if the explanation is that “mom does all the domestic work, including ensuring the kids are doing well in school”, doesn’t it?

But if that’s not the explanation, awkward though it seems, why weren’t there more fathers at school for the parent teacher conferences? If you’re a dad and don’t go to these sort of meetings, perhaps you can explain your thinking?

Because I just don’t get it.

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