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.

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