OK. My first experience at parent-teacher conferences was no picnic. It was the fall of Patti’s year in kindergarten. I arrived at the classroom door and another parent was inside. I waited outside the door a few minutes into my scheduled start time, even though a sign on the door encouraged parents to knock on arrival. But I felt cowed. I felt shy. I felt like a little kid.
That feeling didn’t go away when the kindergarten teacher finally spied me walking around and called me in gently, sweetly admonishing me for not speaking up. Still felt like a little kid.
I aimed my rear into the tiny kid’s chair 12 inches off the ground and hit the target, thank goodness. When our meeting began, I realized my hands were shaking and my heart was thumping away. Why was I such a nervous wreck? Was it the inherent formality of the occasion? My nervousness at having the teacher look me over and possibly judge me based on whatever she knew about my kid? Or was it the fear of being a bit player in the meeting?
Eh. It was just strange. But I got over myself soon enough.
Patti’s teacher told me all about my daughter’s strengths and weaknesses and helped me understand the goals for the year. It helped to de-mystify what happens in that brightly colored room every day – and I really felt satisfied that the teacher understood who my daughter was and would work hard to help Patti be the best she could be.
Now, four years later, I’m an old hand at elementary school parent-teacher conferences. There are times I wonder if I’d rather be at the dentist, especially if I’m fighting for a service or something that the school may not want to provide for us, but I stand my ground. And 99 percent of the time, the conferences are just an opportunity to share good news and happy stories about our girls.
In November, I went again – but there was a new wrinkle. For the first time, my husband was able to go with me. I felt self-conscious all anew, I noticed, especially when he used poor grammar in front of the second grade teacher. What was that? Just for effect? Oy!
But thankfully, all we heard was good news. Really good news. So we left the meetings filled with pride for our girls, and thrilled that their teachers seemed genuinely to like them.
The cynic in me considered for a second that maybe teachers say these nice things to all the moms. But then I decided not to listen to the cynic that day, and rather bask in the glow of my hardworking girls’ great reports.
I understand that middle and high school conferences are completely different and less satisfying. They mean standing in long lines and perhaps not being certain whether the teachers even know who your children are.
So I think I’m going to savor these years when my girl’s teachers have the time and desire to look out for my kids and tell me all the best news when I go in for conferences.