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 ago …"
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 heads...
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 rescue).
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 bad.
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.