The administration reinstated Open School Week on Friday, October 28 for a half day.
Open School Week has traditionally been a week-long event preceding parent-teacher conferences, during which parents could go to classes with their child. The administration canceled it for fall 2007 due to teacher pressure against the policy.
“Many teachers felt that having parents visit classrooms during instructional time interrupted instruction,” he said. According to Teitel, teachers complained about a lack of seats for parents, as well as disturbances from parents who leave in the middle of class or whose cell phones ring.
“I don’t have the same control over the parents as the students,” Teitel said. “I can’t take away their cell phones.”
The Parents’ Association (PA) has supported reinstating Open School Week. “The parents were very angry. The parents felt that to avoid a small imposition on the teachers, there was a huge loss for the parents,” Co-President Paola de Kock said.
“This is the only time parents see what’s being taught. It is a nice way to connect with your child,” de Kock said. “We’re not spying on the teachers.”
According to an October 22 PA e-mail to parents, the PA found that a major reason that teachers opposed Open School Week was that they were uncomfortable with parents in the room. “The stumbling block had nothing to do with misbehaving parents: being observed while teaching made teachers-even some highly regarded ones-’uneasy’,” the e-mail said.
The PA said Teitel offered the Friday half-day of visitations as a “compromise.”
According to the e-mail, “The PA executive board reluctantly agreed,” hoping to ensure at least some parents have the opportunity to visit their child’s classes.
Teitel said parents would be less likely to disturb classes by leaving before the end because of the shortened periods.
Teachers are split in their views on the parent visitations.
Some find parents disruptive in class. “Anytime there is another party in the room that the class is not used to, it could be a distraction,” computer science teacher Jon-Alf Dyrland-Weaver said.
“I’ve heard horror stories,” said math teacher Gary Rubinstein. “Once, I had a parent reading a newspaper, which was really rude,” he said.
Open School Week also feels disorganized to some. “The organization was just very haphazard,” said Rubinstein.
“[The parent visitations] need to be organized properly, which is difficult because of space problems,” said physics teacher Ulegbek Akhmedov. “We also get parents just roaming the building.”
Teachers also saw benefits in allowing visitations. “It’s a good thing because the parents should know more about the environment their student is in,” Akhmedov said.
“Some parents want to come to the school for a day and walk in their children’s footsteps,” biology teacher Jerry Citron said.
Biology teacher Jonathan Gastel said parent visitations on parent-teacher conference days could be beneficial because they encourage more parents to come to afternoon conferences. “Before, most parents were coming [to parent-teacher conferences] on Thursday. By putting the open school period on Friday, more parents will come, go to lunch, and then come back for parent-teacher conferences,” he said. “Friday is under-subscribed.”
But Gastel also said there were some problems with half-day-long visitations. “Some of the teachers are upset because the classes are going to be very short and they won’t be able to represent their true talents. Also, teachers are very tired on Fridays after going to conferences on Thursday, so they’re upset that the parents are sitting in on classes on Friday morning.”
Stuyvesant parent Howard Sage said he was comfortable visiting on the shortened day. “It’s short enough we don’t have to spend all day,” he said. “It’s long enough, we learn the general idea,” of each class.
Parent Lillian Sage, however, said the one-day Open School Week prevented parents who could not come on Friday from attending their child’s classes. “If they missed today, that’s it,” she said after observing her student’s classes.
The PA has asked for feedback from parents on the day for planning future visitations.Teitel said he may try to continue holding Open School Week on the Friday of parent-teacher conferences. “If it’s successful, we’ll think about continuing it,” he said.