I am fresh from a round of parent teacher conferences, between my two wonderful teenagers, I have now attended 19 of them during my continuing career as involved parent. The last few have been “arena style”. This style has come into vogue as of the last few years and I believe it adds to the surrealism of the event.
Imagine a large space, perhaps a cafeteria or gymnasium. You are in the middle, surrounded by rows and rows of tiny desks. At each one is seated a teacher. Most are engaged in discussions with worry-faced parents. There is an air or solemn soberness. Most voices are hushed and not a wisp of laughter or small talk that usually accompanies large groups. No, this is not a social event, like Back to School Night. Like war, this is serious business and like war it is filled with short bursts of excitement mixed with long stretches of anxiety and boredom.
Every conference is unique unto itself and as the years pile on I have come to expect one thing; the unexpected. It is interesting to see your child, your beloved “perfect” child through the eyes of another. It can surprise you and as one who has been surprised a number of times, I can attest to that wholeheartedly.
These surprise have been varied and thankfully never life-threatening. Some in fact, a good number of them have been pleasant surprises. I am blessed with fantastic kids who have given me many occasions to swell with parental pride. However, I have experienced a time or two when I wanted to just sink right through the chair and disappear into the freshly polished checkerboard floor.
It is on these occasions that the past gets the bite on me and I am transported back to the 80’s, back to the days of big hair and bad taste. Back when I was a punky teen with an attitude and poor grades. It feels like I am getting “busted” for something and all I want to do is run.
But I cannot run, I am a “responsible” adult and I must face the fire. The fire being a stressed teacher with legitimate gripes about my child. I smile. I say all the right things, seemingly passing an untold test on the proper reaction to the given circumstances. I have always been cooperative and I have tried to not take any of this too personally but, at times I have felt the sting of the hot lights of interrogation which upon reflection, seemed a bit much.
I try to put things in perspective but it is at these worst of times that stick in my worried mind and anxiety tends to creep in every year at conference time. I have tried many methods to calm my nerves but really, all I can do at this point is to hold my breath, cross my fingers and hope for the best, and help pick up the pieces later.
I vowed to make this year different. I have found myself a bit more reflective since I have been writing in this blog these last few months and I’m realising that perhaps I have been projecting my old latent fears and struggles with school and authority figures from the past into now. This is coloring my attitudes with regard to my role in these conferences.
Usually one’s unfounded fears never materialise they way they are expected and this current round of conferences proved to be no exception to that. I took them for what they were, which was not so bad, really. I guess that holding my breath and crossing my fingers paid off, not to mention the hard work by my kids with a lot of nagging by me.
Number 18 went as smooth as can be. No interrogation or hot lights. The arena had been abandoned for a more intimate setting in indivdual classrooms. The report went well with progress made and hope for the future with an actual “A” mixed in….I was walking on air all the way to the next school and my date with number 19.
It was the end of a long morning, the sun shone through the cafeteria window drawing a bright beam of light across the stained linoleum. The teacher smiles and offers me a seat. We exchange pleasantries. He tells me that my daughter is self-directed and motivated and that she too, has shown progress. We spent the rest of the time having a pleasant conversation about books. Just two people; an energetic enthusiastic teacher and an involved parent having a talk about a mutually beloved subject.
Wishing you blue skies and a happy day!