Blog Post— 5 Min Read

An Introduction to our Parent Explainer Series

I vividly remember my first parent-teacher conference as a 7th-grade social studies teacher at Houston ISD. In Texas, Seventh grade history is Texas history. I grew up in Michigan.

The father, a genuine and respectful man, was dressed to a type. He wore cowboy boots, Wranglers, a massive belt buckle, and carried a wide-brimmed hat. With a firm handshake, he started his introduction.

“This here is a class on Texas history.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good,” he continued to shake my hand. “I just – well – I just want to make sure you’re teaching my daughter Texas PRIDE!”

As he yelled the word “PRIDE” at me, I had a moment of panic. Am I supposed to teach Texas pride? What is Texas pride? Is that an actual standard? Is that an expectation? How do you grade pride? So many questions!

For my response, I went with pure honesty. “Sir, I’m a Yankee from Michigan. And while I can do my best to teach Texas pride, I suspect your daughter will be able to teach me some things.”

He laughed at my response and started to pepper me with questions about Sam Houston.

Texas. What's not to love?

Texas. Deep in the Heart.

Fast forward 14 years. I was a parent sitting in a small chair while visiting with my child’s elementary school teacher. A curious word salad of phrases like “AYP, percentile ranges, Alex, MAP indications, 504, username and password lists, Moby with a Max, homework grades” flowed into the conversation while trying to paint a picture of how my child navigated school. My son’s teacher attempted an admirable job of creating a coherent narrative, but much of their effort went towards educating my wife and me about education concepts.

In the end, the most relevant question I had was “is my son learning, and how can I help?”

I’ve been an educator and an administrator. Education shop-talk makes sense to me (sometimes). But my experience is not the norm.

Parents approach their child’s school with different expectations (Texas Pride!), different understandings of school terms, and frequent gaps in the many new changes in education policy and education technology.

This is why we’re launching a new running series at An explainer for Parents. We’ll dive into some of the many areas that affect education and try and make sense of items by bringing greater context. We’ll cover areas like technology, edtech, testing, grades, and other curious aspects of teaching children.

We’ll be open to learning together.

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I vividly remember my first parent-teacher conference as a 7th-grade social studies teacher at Houston ISD. Seventh grade history is Texas history. I grew up in Michigan.

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About the Author:

Zach Vander Veen is the VP of Instruction at Abre.