21 October 2012

Parent Teacher Conferences- The Specifics

I tried to stick with generalities in my first Parent/Teacher Conferences piece, but now I'll get into specifics (omitting or changing names of course. I'm not ready to get fired yet).
I think I may have the most diverse student body in the entire United States. I met with Iraqi parents, parents from all over Central and South America and the Caribbean, Pakistani parents, parents with adopted children, gay parents, African American parents, and even a few run-of-the-mill, white American parents. I learned that one of my 12 year olds got detained trying to flee El Salvador for America with his 17 year old uncle earlier this year. A 12 year old innocent kid escaping gang violence in his home country only to be arrested. Puts a different perspective on their home life and why they haven't been doing their homework. I learned of another student who watched his brother die a gruesome death at the hands of the Salvadorian gangs as they attempted to seek refuge elsewhere. Many of these border crossings are truly horrific and make me  oh so grateful for my safety and security.
One of my conferences involved the whole family- my student, his two older sisters, and the mother. The mother had gold frames around her teeth- no joke- and the older sister translated into Spanish. I had to keep a keen ear out for her words (yo hablo pequeno Espanol) because I was afraid she might cover for her brother through some errant and liberal translations. It was like a family gathering; I was just waiting for them to start printing T-shirts with "Sanchez' Familia Reunion 2012 con Sr. Bennett" on them.
Another conference was entirely one-sided. I'm not even kidding you. The father walked in with his daughter and didn't say a word, not even an introduction. To avoid the silence I jumped in and said, "Your daughter is very good in my class. She is smart and does a great job! I have no problems with her. She turns in all her work!" He nodded, and that was it. I asked if he had any questions. He shook his head. I peered at the daughter and the daughter shook her head. Keep in mind this transcription is literal, hence we'd only been sitting together for maybe 15 seconds. I said, "Well great, good to meet you then. Thanks for coming in!" They both nodded and didn't move. I waited a half a second, but still there was nothing. I got up from my chair, and they kept sitting. It felt like the conference was too short for us to separate, but yet we had no further reason to continue the meeting. I got the sense that this responsible father had no idea what these conferences were for or why he was supposed to be at school at 7:00pm on a Thursday night, but he came anyway because he's diligent. Finally I said to him, "Well, I have some other people waiting so I think I'm going to invite them in. Good to meet you!" Only then did he realize we were concluded and he shook my hand and left. He literally was a mime the entire 45 second conference. The daughter's only words were "Well, that was a sort conference!"
I have some chairs outside my room for parents to sit in before I invite them in to meet with me. It makes the conference a little more personal once we're in my room. One grandfather just didn't get the memo I guess. I was with another parent and he came strolling in like it ain't no thang. He kept walking around the back of the room looking around curiously (or suspiciously) while I met with this other parent. I was waiting for him to open my desk and discover my secret stash of... Reese's. Very peculiar.
Many more of my 47 conferences were memorable, but here you just get a whetting of the appetite. You'll have to become a teacher to get the full dose.

19 October 2012

Parent Teacher Conferences

One of the joys of being a teacher is the opportunity we have to meet with hundreds of parents, thousands over the course of a many careers. Yesterday I stayed at work late into the night meeting with parents, only to return again bright and early this morning to meet with more.  Last night in a 3 hour period I met with the parent(s) of 30 different students. This morning it was closer to 17. Many of these meetings were hilarious to me, but then again I think events such as haircuts are funny beyond belief.
The most awkward and surprisingly common type of parent/teacher conferences are when the parents bring their child in for the meeting. I see their reasoning; they want the child to hear what their teacher is saying about them and offer the child a rebuttal. It's also so the parent can't go home and say "Mr. So-and-So said this about you..." and the child can say, "It's simply not true. You must have misheard." But even still, most of the conferences with the child present are just downright bizarre. The child NEVER wants to be there, and makes it known to everyone that is there. It's two adults talking about a third person, in the presence of the squirmy third person. I never know if I should talk about the child in the third person, or just point to him/her whenever I'm using their name. It's also harder for me to call out the child while they are right there in front of me. It's easier to tell the parents "Your child is an absolute hellion in my class" when its the three of you. I want to preserve my relationships with the students while still letting the parents know what's going on, and it gets pretty awkward when you are all there together.
Another funny type of conference is when the student is a model student and you have nothing to say in the conference, and the parents don't either. I had several meetings where I would try to drum up conversation about the student but I just couldn't make the conference last more than 45 seconds.
It's also funny when you get off topic. Sometimes the parents start talking about whatever the heck they want to and you don't have much choice but to go along with it. At Back to School Night I showed the parents a picture of me riding an ostrich in Thailand and several parents were more than amused. During one of my conferences this morning I had a parent come in and it quickly became apparent that they had been waiting a month to hear more about my ostrich riding experience, and frankly didn't want to discuss their child at all. We DID discuss the student but it felt more like a requirement than a conference. After 45 seconds the mother said to me, "Tell me more about the ostrich! How did you get on? How did they keep it from running away? Was it dangerous? Can you do that in America?" She was e-n-t-h-r-a-l-l-e-d.
Another parent-of-a-model-student just kept going on about her other, less-obedient child. She spent 5 minutes telling me about her son (who I have never met) and all the trouble he'd been in. All I could say was "Well, your daughter sure is a great girl..." Eventually she stopped telling me about all the trouble her son had gotten into and we said our good-byes.
I don't really mind parent teacher conferences. Sure it's rough being at school for 12 hours, but all in all they are helpful and it's fun to meet so many different parents. I wonder what type of parent I'll be at parent teacher conferences. Not the kind that brings my child along, that's for sure.

13 October 2012

Washington Nationals NLDS Game 5

I want you to walk through a few scenarios with me for a minute:

  1. Imagine you are a senior in high school again, applying for colleges. You select your stretch school- the one you really want to attend but which you know there's a pretty slim chance they'll even open your application. A week after applying you are shocked to get an acceptance letter from said stretch school. Not only do they want you, but they offer you a full ride scholarship for all your hard work and potential. Completely ecstatic, you tell all your friends, your grandparents, and buy your plane ticket. Then, on the day before you fly out to school, your perfect university calls you back and with no explanation informs you that you are no longer welcome to attend. No explanation, no reason, just a lot of tears.
  2. Imagine you are dating a fine, young co-ed and things are going just swimmingly. So swimmingly, in fact, that you decide to propose. She gratefully accepts and you set a date to be wed. Everything leading up to the wedding is bliss. Invitations are sent out, grandparents are personally called, and banquet halls are rented. You are madly in love. And then, a week before the deed is to be done, she leaves town. No explanation, no reason, just a lot of tears.
  3. Imagine you have just purchased a brand new car. You've worked hard to afford it and you spare no expense at getting all the bells and whistles. For years you've taken the bus, mooched rides, and walked. Now, finally, you have wheels of your own. Two weeks after purchasing your car you are driving to Church- an innocent enough activity- and a 16 year old rams into you, shattering your pristine car into a hundred different pieces. No explanation, no reason, just a lot of tears.
If you are still reading this you have surmised that it's not really a happy post. How could it be on such a dark day in Washington baseball?

07 October 2012

A New Haircut and a New Barbershop

For those of you faithful readers (thanks Mom), you know that one of my favorite blog topics is writing about my hair cutting experiences. While these monumental events have become precipitously less thrilling since leaving the copious salon schools of Provo, Utah with all their accouterments, I still try to get the most out of my haircuts here in the DC area. My previous DC barber has been blogged about, and presumably still does a good job, but I decided to branch out a little this time. I got a flier on my door awhile back advertising a new barbershop that just opened 0.7 miles from my house. I think my aunt put the flier on my door trying to send me a message, and it worked (3 months later). Eager for fresh material I trekked out to investigate. I was pleased with the facade and the interior, although a bit surprised by the barbers. There were two women barbers, each dressed up. The younger of the two was wearing a nice dress and pumps, as if about to go to a dinner in Georgetown. Most barbers I know wear a smock. (By the way, if you do a Google Images search for pumps, you get pages and pages of shoes, and nothing about water or electric pumps. I think we know who runs the internet...) Not only were these barbers dressed quite nicely, but they were Asian! My eyes I could not believe! I thought my original Asian barbershop was just an anomaly, but apparently they have a corner on the market here! All of this was bombinating through my head in the 10 minutes I had to wait for my new doo.