Parent teacher interviews are an important time when parents can find out more on their child’s progress at school. It’s a time when parents get an insight from someone with an objective view on their child’s academic, emotional and social development.
Why are parent teacher interviews necessary for me?
I know nothing. My child’s after school conversations starts with a grunt and ends with a monosyllabic word.
Me: “How was your day?”
Mandy: noncommittal grunt
Me: “What did you do?”
End of conversation.
My child forgets to relay important messages about classroom changes.
Me: (eyeing the tumbleweeds blowing past in the wind) “Mandy, why are you the only kid lining up?”
Mandy: “I don’t know!”
Me: “Are you sure you’re supposed to line up here today?”
Mandy: “Oh yeah, we’re supposed to line up at the gym.”
I’m assuming (and you know what they say about assuming things) that my child hears and conveys messages accurately.
Me: “Where is your school reader?”
Mandy: “We don’t have to do them anymore.”
Me: “Did Ms France say that?”
Mandy: “Not exactly in words.”
Me: “What does that even mean?”
Mandy: “Mum, trust me. I know these things.”
Also, I’m an introvert and uncomfortable with ad hoc meetings unless it’s necessary. Plus, I don’t like discussing awkward or sensitive matters with other parents nearby. So these parent teacher interviews are imperative to finding out what and how my daughter is doing at school and for me to relay any important information to the teacher.
We all know that parents can be sensitive when it comes to any perceived criticisms of their progeny. It’s no surprise that teachers would try to be tactful with their choice of words when describing their pupils. No teacher will say ‘your child is a nightmare to deal with!’ instead they might say ‘your child is full of life, vivacious’. They aren’t going to say ‘your child drives me nuts with their endless stupid questions!’ but they might choose to say ‘your child has a curious mind’. They might really want to say ‘your kid is a chuckle head’ but to limit death threats, they resort to ‘your child has untapped potential’.
As parents we are too close to the subject, too invested, too attached, to see any flaws and might expect to hear positive feedback. I wonder how much of the spiel that teachers give about their students are individualised and not a regurgitation of the same old, just to keep the peace. And if it isn’t a blanket statement that they give all parents, are they really saying what they mean or is it code for something else?
I enter the classroom, excited to hear news of my daughter’s progress. We do the obligatory small talk before delving into proper discussions.
“Is there anything you want to know about Mandy’s progress?” asks Mandy’s grade one teacher, Ms France.
I only have one burning question on my mind, I want to know if my daughter has told porkies about wearing her new glasses for class.
“No. Mandy told me she didn’t have to wear them anymore!” informs Ms France. “Sometimes when I see her sitting at the back of the room with her friends, I’ll ask her if wants to come sit closer but she’ll refuse. She doesn’t seem to want to wear her glasses and sometimes, when I ask about them, she tells me it’s not in her bag.”
Translation: I tried a few times but really, it’s not in my job description.
I should have trusted my gut. My Princess Porkie Lies will be getting a stern talking to tonight.
“Her writing is good. She found a way of finish the tasks quicker by writing lists. So now, I prompt her to do more writing and get her to think of other ways she could write. Last time, she conceded with doing a letter,” says Ms France, hesitating between sentences.
Translation: Your daughter is a Shortcut Sally.
I nod in understanding. This sounds like the Mandy I know.
“Her math is good. They are learning about addition, subtraction, fractions and a bit of division. Maybe you could do additions at home and make it fun with money. Kids love money,” says Ms France.
Translation: She sucks at maths. She needs help otherwise she has no hope with the other concepts.
Again, I nod in understanding. Her dad has some work cut out for him!
“Her reading is good. Just to warn you in the report, her progression isn’t the same as last time as the reading material has gotten harder,”
Translation: I’m telling you this in case you’re a high achieving parent and expect your child’s trajectory to be linear.
“She’s doing well,” says Ms France, leaning back and pushing out her chair.
Translation: Your time allocation is over. Please don’t ask anymore questions. I’d like to finish on time to go home and eat dinner. I’m starving!
Mirroring her body language to leave, because it’s plain as the nose on one’s face, I bid farewell and go pick up my gem. I’ll need to pull up my sleeves, put in some elbow grease, and do a bit of polishing to make my prized treasure shine bright like a diamond!
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