I know I'm not alone when I say that parent-teacher conferences
are a good time. Am I right? Sure, they're fabulous
opportunities for parents and teachers to 'bond' and to teach each
other about how we can all help the kids to make the most of their
time in school, but they can also be daunting - especially for
those newbie Kindergarten parents.
They glow with pride one moment and then find themselves
sweating about 'areas needing improvement' the next, all while
perched on itty-bitty chairs that make their knees lock up and
their butts ache.
What's up with that?
They're cute and all, but after a few years of this nonsense
it's finally occurred to me that maybe we should just bring our own
chairs to these meetings. You know, the ones already stowed in the
trunk of the car for us to use at the kids' football and soccer
games. They've even got cup holders, and, better yet, maybe
we parents could all tailgate in the school parking-lot on
conference nights. Toast marshmallows over portable fire-pits, sing
Kumbaya, the works.
I know a lot of parents who just cringe at parent-teacher- talk
time, and not just because of 'areas needing improvement.' The
thing is, teachers must cover a lot of ground during this
fifteen-minute sprint through little Billy's last ten weeks of
school, often while their next customers lurk in the hall right
outside the door, sometimes coughing loudly enough to remind the
hapless souls inside that their time is up.
Not that I would know.
Consequently, these encounters sometimes feel more like
breathless gallops toward a finish line than a meeting of the
minds. I recall one conference years ago when I thought
"Whoa, slow down girlfriend, I think I had a question three pages
You know the theme song to the Lone Ranger, from the
finale of Rossini's William Tell Overture wherein the
trumpets herald a dizzying charge to an invisible finish line a
mile away? That's what these meetings feel like, sometimes.
Yeah, tailgating with other parents might take the edge off that
old conference-night-angst. We could high-five each other as we run
in, cheer for each other as we run out through a human tunnel like
pro-football teams do, and then pass the baton to the next parent
on their way to the s'mores table.
As for the teachers, who often must do several conferences
back-to-back, I imagine that they all return home after a tedious
day of conferences and collapse fully-clothed across their beds,
their jaws slack and drooly, their eyeballs rolled back into their
I'm sure they could use some high-five's, too. These
conferences are hard work for everyone.
If the chair-induced numbness in my backside hasn't spread to my
brain and I still have my wits about me, I try to ask the kids'
teachers what they like best about my children. Once, I got
such a surprising response that my eyes filled up with tears,
partly from guilt: Holly's first-grade teacher, Mrs. Sturgeon,
mentioned a tender poem about hearts that my daughter had
apparently written, that I could not recall - but feigned
familiarity with (and promptly turned the house upside-down to
Otherwise, I usually get to hear about how chatty my children
are. A word to the wise: teachers aren't usually amused by efforts
to lighten the mood and disclose that your kid must come by it
naturally because you, too, were once a "chatterbox" in school (I
have the report cards to prove it).
Oh, I suppose we all have 'areas needing improvement.'
After I got over my anxiety about my first parent-teacher
conference, when I needlessly worried that I'd be told that my son
was caught swearing in Kindergarten, I realized they're not so
Except for the chairs.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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