Thursday, November 30, 2006


Last night we had the 2nd of 4 quarterly parent-teacher conferences. They are held in the cafeteria from 4:30 until 7:30 pm (duh). I dread them, mostly because it makes for a long day, and by the end, I am just fried from doing all the meet and greet. I usually have about 30 conferences in 3 hours. It makes my head spin. And? The next morning is really rough- the staff usually skates in minutes before the students arrive, coffee in hand, dark circles around their eyes. It's a good movie day, or better yet, one to call in sick. Not me, though. I of course opted for the quiz and fascinating lesson on the present perfect subjunctive.

Dread them as I do, I must say that I do end up actually enjoying conferences. I like meeting the parents of my students, and the atmosphere in the cafeteria is quite social. Some of the parents have had kids in school together for 10 or more years, and this is one place they get to see each other. Since I live in the district in which I teach, I also know some of the parents socially- or at least semi-socially. So, it's basically a big love fest.

Last night's offerings were very colorful indeed. It felt like I was watching a Robert Altman (God rest his soul...) movie- with the parents on one side of the table, performing for me, and me on the other, just observing.

I of course had the typical "helicopter" parents, the ones whose kids are getting an A in Spanish 4, and it's effortless for them. They are the ones who want to know if the entire class is taught in Spanish, what they should expect from their child in the way of fluency, what are good software programs for tutorials, on and on and on with their over-achieving selves.

But, I also met an interesting couple- parents of a really cool kid- he actually went out and bought a guayabera (one of those button down shirts a lot of men wear in the Caribbean) and wore it to class. I found out that his mother had studied linguistics in college, and that they had lived in Zaire for a couple of years when they were first married. His dad worked at a hospital there and spoke some French, and his mom learned one of the trade languages while living there. They both got these really sweet smiles on their faces while reminiscing about that time in their lives.

One mom made me laugh when she said that she was glad her daughter had me instead of one of my colleagues, who, she said "shits pencils" he's so uptight. She also was telling me that she was relieved that her daughter was kind of a goody 2 shoes, but she worried that she was perceived as a bit of a Jesus geek. Then she shrugged her shoulders and leaned forward and said, "she's never going to get laid her Freshman year of college. That's a good thing, though."

Another mom confided that she and her husband had separated after 28 years of marriage. They had adopted a family of 4 kids and then had one of their own, and then called it quits when he was 15. Isn't that sad? Then she told me that her son had a mild form of Turret's , which you would never in a million years guess. She said it was strep induced from when he was little, but he was outgrowing it.

One dad came and he looked kind of like a werewolf and seemed to be several bricks shy of playing with a full deck. But, props to him for showing an interest in his daughter's education. You could tell that he was really uncomfortable being there and he hardly made eye contact with me. His daughter is bright and if she came from a different socioeconomic class, she would be preparing to go to college instead of choosing which restaurant she will waitress at.

Lots of parents talked about their kids' college plans- some of them even kind of teared up when they spoke about them leaving home. It's funny, the kids look like adults, but they're still someone's little boys and girls. The parents look at their sons and daughters and remember the little bundle of joy they held in their arms a short time ago. Some of them just glow with pride. Others are so disgusted with their slacker kids, they could just spit. One mom said "It's really good that I'm a social worker - then I won't go home and beat him!" She was joking of course- don't take me too seriously.

One dad always comes with his son. His son is nice enough and is a pretty good student, but I can't help but think to myself "How did a 50 year old man get into that 15 year old kid's body?" His favorite movies are To Kill a Mockingbird and Twelve Angry Men. He likes to come up to me after class and show me things like a family vacation photo where his dad had "the most hilarious expression on his face." And it's not.

The couple that stole the show was towards the end. Their daughter is beautiful, bright and talented. She is also a bit "work shy" and gives herself a day off about once a week. Some of her absences are excused, some aren't. Her father is American and her mother is Asian. They seemed to be perplexed as to how to get their daughter to come to school and to come to school on time. The mother shook her head and said in heavily accented English, "We didn't do discipline her when she was young. Now it's too late." She tossed her head at her husband, "You need to make her! You need to be tougher on her!" "Me? Why do I have to be the bad guy? I don't want to be the bad guy!" I mentioned that some parents took away priviledges like phone and car. The mom shook her head, "No. She get mad and won't come at all." Mmmm. Methinks someone's created a monster. They went back and forth for a little while. It was highly entertaining, in a train wreck sort of way.

Just for the record, I think that we will NOT get hit with this big "winter storm" the weather folk are all geared up for. I'm sure it will travel across Iowa and veer either north or south of us and we'll get nothing but flurries. Of course, my students were all jacked up, anticipating a snow day, which they will regret in June when we have to make it up. We hope for a 2 hour late start, where we can sleep a little late and enjoy the morning coffee.


Blogger Nic said...

Hahahahaha! I have one of the "old man" students, too---and that's EXACTLY what he's like!

And doncha love when the parents argue in front of you? It's so embarrassing.

12/01/2006 6:35 AM  
Blogger harpo the dog said...

Man were you wrong about the snow. I wish you had been right. Bet your students are happy about that, I know my kids are. So much for getting out and doing some christmas shopping today. Looks like an amazon day.

12/01/2006 10:04 AM  
Blogger Adeline said...

wow good run down of parent conferences, can completely relate to the exhaustion those things create...of sitting in a chair and being diplomatic but earnest but honest but also actually genuinely enjoying meeting the parent, but almighty mother of all that is sacred, 30 in 3 hours? i don't know if that is worse or if the 4 I had in 3 hours is worse?

It sounds like you had some interesting parents too!

cool thanks for sharing that it was fun to read.

12/01/2006 11:33 PM  
Blogger Pendullum said...

You are a credit to the education system...
You are a wonderful teacher and both parents and students should be grateful tohave you in their lives...
I loved the vignet of the parents...and how you really do have a vested interest in all the children and where they came from...
They are very lucky!

12/04/2006 10:17 AM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

Sounds like an interesting and entertaining night! Thanks for sharing this with us.

12/06/2006 11:57 AM  

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