As your children move into higher grades, it seems that you get invited less and less to volunteer in the classroom. If you have boys, like I do, they tell you less and less about their days.
“How was your day?”
“It was good.”
“What was the best part?”
“Learn anything cool?”
“Mom, I’m too tired to talk about it.”
Those of us who are used to being involved, loving, helicopter moms start to feel left out. We need a secret window to check in on our kids as they move through their days, laugh with their friends, struggle on a math test. So the Parent-Teacher Conference is an eagerly awaited event. This, we think, is going to be that window into the lives of our children. The teacher will tell us if he is naughty, if he has friends, who they are, where he fits socially and academically with his peers, if he leads by example, if he talks too much or not enough. We will, we imagine, walk away from our conference with a picture of our child that we can carry with us through our day while they are busy moving through theirs.
So when a teacher says that “everything is going great, he is just where he needs to be, he is a bright kid and so sweet”, you feel cheated. You want more. Does he make you laugh as much as he makes me laugh? Is he a little bit ahead of where he needs to be? Who is he most comfortable sitting next to? Where does he excel? Where does he lag behind? I want specifics so I can have that picture I came for.
And then you talk to the other parents who just had their Parent-Teacher Conferences too. The ones who heard what you heard — that all is going so well — are as upset as you are. Is her teacher lying? Does she not know my child? What does she mean when she says…..
Of course, the parents who heard that their child is struggling in math, or having trouble sitting in his chair, or talking too much, or bullying other kids on the playground — well, they are heading to the nearest margarita bar. But they have a more specific picture, something to work on with their child, a role to play in the day that is no longer ruled by mom or dad. They — the ones who got bad news — are the lucky ones.
So if you teach, if you know a teacher well enough to offer advice, tell them this: the Parent-Teacher Conference can be your gift to parents. Paint a picture for us. Give specifics. Hand us a goal for our child. So we can keep feeling like we are there, catching every victory and little defeat like we used to when they were little. That is really why we are sitting uncomfortably in those kid-sized chairs, excited to hear what you say next.