I knew it would be coming home any day now, on pastel green paper in all its wrinkled glory — the annual parent-teacher conference notice.
I didn’t have a specific reason to be nervous. My son seems to be managing just fine academically and he even has the same teacher as last year. But the mandatory meeting to discuss my child’s 6-week progress in a new grade level is enough to give me the “please talk to your son about appropriate classroom behavior” butterflies and “he’s struggling in math” jitters.
You’d think I’d be used to the parent-teacher tête–à–tête. After all, I’ve been meeting teachers in empty classrooms for a combined total of 12 years now. Only once have I cried. Only twice have I considered transferring my child. Yet year after year, grade level after grade level, I cringe at the very mention of constructive criticism.
I don’t know why. It’s not like hearing my son has the same trouble listening in the classroom as he does at home is surprising. I know my kid’s strengths and weaknesses better than anybody, but sitting face-to-face on classroom turf with even the kindest teacher is enough to make me hope it’s the last time I’ll have to do it all year.
And I’m not the only parent to feel this way, either.
“My goal every school year is one parent-teacher conference,” my friend Julie tells me. “Any more signals an issue. Let’s get through the year without any issues.”
“Parent-teacher conferences always make me nervous,” says fellow mom Erika. “Is it weird that I kind of need the teacher to like me?”
“Do teachers realize how intimidating conferences can be?” Ashley notes. “Especially when we’ve had issues in other grades. I worry that the teachers talk about us.”
And then there’s Sarah, who tells me, “I just don’t know what to expect [at a conference]. Is it good news? Is it bad news? How about a heads up note: “Hey, brace yourself!” or “Relax, it’s fine.”
If you too are preparing to take your own parental stroll down the elementary corridor of uncertainty, take comfort in knowing these thoughts are shared by all:
- Well, look at me! Right on time like the perfect parent I am.
- I hope she likes me.
- I mean MY KID! I hope she
likesloves my kid!
- Unless my kid is that kid …
- Not possible, my kid is great.
- This teacher is lucky to have my kid in her class …
- … with me as a parent!
- I mean, I’m super easy to talk to …
- … and totally reasonable all the time …
- … and invested! I’m supremely invested in my child’s education.
- Why can’t I get cell reception here?
- Oh, wow. There are a lot of desks in here.
- Exactly how many kids are in this class? By my estimation, 105.
- I hope she makes a lot of money for teaching this many students.
- I could never do this job.
- This woman is a saint.
- Is that a Commodore 64 over there?
- Hello! Yes, yes, the weather, blah, blah.
- Sure, I’ll sit … in this tiny dollhouse chair.
- I hope I don’t break it.
- Do you think having parents sit in these small student chairs is some sort of teacher power play?
- YOUR MOVE.
- Yes, yes, state educational standards. I’ll be sure to read this entire packet in all my free time.
- Hmm on his reading level …
- I KNEW we should have participated in the library reading program over the summer!
- Reading comprehension needs work. Got it.
- Wait, how can I help with that?
- I don’t really know why I keep nodding yes.
- Can’t. stop. nodding.
- Apparently I agree with everything …
- … including volunteering every Tuesday afternoon. Grrrrrrreat.
- It’s freezing in here!
- Yikes on the writing assessment.
- This is his best penmanship.
- Oh, a big social studies project? You don’t say.
- Yeah, my husband can do that.
- Science. Plant life cycles. Cool.
- OOF, that math grade!
- Surely, there must be some mistake. Maybe you calculated wrong? Imagine the irony.
- But he knows his multiplication tables!
- I KNEW we should have done those bridge books over the summer!
- I should have brought a coffee.
- Aww, I should have brought her one, too.
- And maybe even donuts.
- I could have been her favorite parent. I like gold stars.
- I’m sorry, what’s this about problems listening? (I wasn’t listening.)
- Good social skills? Yeah, he gets that from me.
- Behavioral problems? He so didn’t get that from me!
- You’re saying he makes fart noises?
- Are you sure he wasn’t actually farting, because lactose …
- He already pulled two red cards this week?
- But, like, he’s not the worst in your class … right? RIGHT?!
- I’ll talk to him.
- Yep, all over it.
- Great year, yes. It’s going to be a great year.
- Nodding. nodding. nodding.
- Yes, we’ll keep in touch.
- (But wouldn’t it be great if everything was so great that we actually didn’t have to? No offense.)