Friday, March 11, 2011

Guide To Parent Conferences

For some of you, there will be a slight adjustment in your normal routine sometime in the next couple of weeks.  You’re going to have to either leave work early, or you will end up using one of your sick days for something other than faking being sick.  You’ve got one of life’s little moments coming up.  It comes up on you so fast that you don’t even realize it then you are sent scrambling to fulfill your obligations on time.  Your son or daughter is going to be issued a report card soon.  Now don’t get nervous, I’m sure they all did fine.  But with this report card will come an in depth analysis of your child’s progress.  You will have to be present and listen to people you previously knew solely through anecdotal testimony from your child talk about them.  The whole thing will probably not last that long, so don’t worry; you can make it through it.  You’ve got parent teacher conferences coming up.
Now the parent teacher conferences were established by most school systems some time ago as sort of a check and balance system.  Previously to their existence, kids would either hide their report cards or execute some rather crude forgery to make you believe they were doing better than they really are.  Think back to any time in your life where you have looked at a report card and thought that there was no way a “B+” should look like that.  So now you can go to the school once or twice a year and really get the info on how little Billy is doing.  If you have an extremely busy work schedule, this may be the first time all year you have gotten any kind of straight talk about his schooling.  So if you get surprised if he isn’t doing well; shame on you.  It’s your fault.  Parent conferences should not be the first time you hear about his academic record.  But every kid is different, which means every conference will be.  To some extent.  Here’s some things you can expect.
You will be walked through the school by your child and get bombarded with flashes of days gone by.  But everything is much lower to the ground now.  You will have to almost lie on the floor to get a drink of water.  But don’t worry about that, they have refreshments in the gym.  Veterans of parent conferences will fondly remember the burnt sugar cookies and the watered down glass of sugarless fruit punch.  Yeah, I know.  Sugar cookies and sugarless fruit punch.  I don’t even have the energy to examine that one.
After getting acquainted to the school you will then be directed to your son’s classroom where you will wait outside in a small line with the other parents.  The seating  situation outside a classroom during all this is a sight to behold.  Our son is in middle school, which means at least we don’t have to sit in those little plastic chairs that are the size of a postage stamp.  But what we do get is the slightly larger than a postage stamp plastic chair with the chrome bracketing connecting a painter’s palette to the seat.  That I am now supposed to somehow fit both of my elbows on at the same time.  Thank god our son isn’t left handed.  If you have ever had the misfortune of sitting in one of these things you know that he would fall out of his desk every time he went to write his name.  My wife swears that these things were made in a factory that originally produced commas for highway billboards.
Now you will go into your child’s classroom and get the grand tour, where you will see thirty copies of what you just sat in.  Oh the memories!  But the time will come where you will get the straight talk about how they are doing in school.  I personally hope that each one of you with kids gets nothing but good news.  Most of them work pretty damn hard and they deserve a good talking up by the teachers.  You will also get a chance to address any questions or concerns to the teacher on your child’s behalf.
Because you see, sometimes teachers make it just a little bit too challenging for the kids.  Around conference time, you might hear your child talk about a college level difficulty assignment.  This might stun some of you with first graders; but it actually happens.  So here you get one of your few chances to address all those goofy things your kid tells you teacher does.  Some of the questions you might ask could be, “why exactly was my thirteen year old given a book report that had to be longer than the War of Seven and Twenty Years that Nostradamus warned us about?”  “Or why is it in a school that promotes individuality you marked a point off said report because he writes his y’s different?”   Sometimes you will see your kid given a really odd assignment that you couldn’t even do.  Make them do it; but when conference time comes around let the teacher know.  This is the time to do it.  Your kid will really appreciate it.
But when the conferences are over and you are driving home; praise your kids.  They deserve it.  Parents forget what a pain in the butt school was sometimes.  So whether they did one thing good or a hundred; let them know.  Because if they only did good in one class this time, any encouragement you give them will certainly make them want to do better next time.  Now go eat your burnt cookie.

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