So one would think it would be handy to meet the parents of the children I teach, useful to get a vibe for the people who produced the offspring I spend my days with. I might discover if the snooty kids have snooty parents, and the sweet kids have sweet ones, or if biology just decided to play Russian roulette with the parental DNA. It should provide a whole new understanding of my demographic.
But most of the time, it’s just a clusterf–k.
So a quick question for you parents of teenagers: when was the last time you spent seven hours straight with your child(ren)? And I don’t mean seven hours sleeping, or you making dinner in the kitchen while they madly text away on their phone. I mean seven.straight.hours. Of teenage face-to-face, quality-time interaction.
Exhausting to think about, isn’t it?
Now up the ante. When was the last time you hosted a teenage event? Five to ten teenagers in your house, having fun, wreaking havoc, leaving a trail of adolscent mayhem in their wake…
Yup. So now do that for seven hours, non-stop, with 120-150 (maybe even 170 or more, depending on your school) teenagers who aren’t even your offsping and who, in the perfect world, you will also somehow make smarter before they leave your room.
I’m supposed to be coherent after this? Not just coherent, but pleasant, informative, helpful and charming?
Good luck with that.
“Hi, I’m Kaitlyn’s mother…” one woman introduced herself at conferences some years ago.
“Oh, I’m SO glad to see you!” I gushed. (At least I had the “pleasant” part of the job description going for me.) “I don’t always see the parents I need to talk to, but I was hoping you would come because Kaitlyn currently has an F in my class.”
Her mother stared at me in shock.
“She does? But she loves your class! In that case, I’m glad I came, too. We need to talk!”
Halfway through the delivery of Kaitlyn’s poor homework habits, reluctance to participate and failing test scores, I realized with a sinking stomach that I taught two Kaitlyn’s that year.
“Wait…” I interrupted myself. “Your daughter is Kaitlyn…who?”
Awkward. But I still count that as one of my finer PTCF moments. At least I caught and corrected myself. What’s one of my less finer moments, you wonder? Why, I’m so glad you asked! Staring at boobs would be the unequivocal answer.
I once taught a student of whom I have absolutely no memory. If you asked, I couldn’t tell you her name, the level of Spanish she was in, or the tiniest personal detail about her. But I remember the parent teacher conference. Her mother had some knockers. I mean, those suckers were HUGE. And, so far as I could tell, completely natural. (And no, I didn’t grab them to find out…though the thought crossed my mind.)
“Hi, Teach!” she greeted me kindly. “How’s Abigail (name obviously invented since I don’t have a flippin’ clue as to who her daughter was) doing?”
“Great!” I answered. Holy POO those are some boobies! “Ummm…” Ignore boobies. Do not stare at boobies. Weird to stare at parents’ boobies. Especially when you’re a straight female. “She’s a delight in class. Pulling a solid grade…” Boobs! “I’m really glad to have gotten to know her this year.” How does she even hold those things up?
That was one of my more painful conferences. But not, I’m sure, any more painful than trying to jog with those melons. Wrapped up in four different sports bras.
150 kids this year. Which means I am the proud teacher of around 300 parents who, of course, I share with other teachers, but still…
Let’s take a reasonably average American high school. 1,800 students. Which means around 3,600 parents. (We’ll figure that the single parents average out with the blended family parents.) Not all attend, so let’s shoot for only 30% attendance and assume that only one parent per student shows. (Both are kind of ridiculous assumptions, but I don’t teach math, nor do I have any desire to do so, you weird number-people freaks.) That still means you have 540 parents, 190 teachers, a handful of students and full administration crammed into your school’s cafeteria. Which, of course, has amazing acoustics (because the government spares no cost in building the public schools which will educate the future government of America) so that when, after a full day of teaching, (which involves multiple repetitions of “Bobby stop that. Johnny knock it off, Jane are you even listening to what I am saying?”) you get to shout things like “WELL, YOUR CHILD HAS A 97% SO I’M NOT REALLY SURE WHAT THE EFF YOU’RE DOING HERE…WHY DON’T YOU JUST TAKE THE KID OUT TO EAT AS A CELEBRATION INSTEAD?”
C’mon, peeps, I’ve just spent seven hours using my authoritative voice to teach your kids. Cut me a break and don’t make me talk for another three hours if your child has above a 90%.
Nearly two hundred teachers and six hundred parents all talking loudly in a concrete room at one time? Say it with me now…
And then there’s that one kid. That cute little freshman who plops himself down at my table with a happy “Hi, Sra.!”
“Hi, Owen,” I reply. “You holding a place in line for your mom?”
“Oh, no,” he says. “My parents are busy with my sister’s conferences, so I decided to do my own.”
“Really?” I say, trying to hide the little sweet catch I always feel at one of my teens talking to me frankly. “You’re visiting all your teachers to check up on your progress?”
“Well, no…” he replies. “I prioritized. I went through my grades and decided that I most needed to go to just the classes where I have a borderline grade. In yours I have a 90% so I’d like you to tell me what I need to do in the upcoming weeks to put myself in a better position.”
“In that case, Owen, I’m very glad you stopped by…” and we have a serious talk about challenges and goals.
So, no. I don’t really mind conferences.
But it never hurts to toss a Starbucks card my way as a “Thanks.” That’s right. I’m looking at you, overachieving parent who makes me shout about how your kid can get from a 97 to a 98%. And for the love of god…
If you have huge balongas, please don’t wear thin cotton T’s.
See you in the spring.