We had parent-teacher conferences yesterday. I know that teachers world-wide sigh and groan at the concept of being held hostage in your classroom playing mind checkers with parents who defend/explain/ threaten as you discuss their cherub’s progress in your class.
My school is pretty amazing. Our conferences are fairly low key; we meet with the parent and students in a designated section of the cafeteria. We have at least 2 teachers per grade so the parent and student get more than one set of feedback. Our administrator is usually at the ready to answer the difficulty questions.
The faculty meets in teams, two by two if you will, to reinforce the notion that we are all in this together.
Yesterday I failed in the most spectacular way.
We have a student who has been hamstrung by his disability and inferior school systems that have failed to meet his needs. After a great deal of discussion and many trials, this student now has an aide who works on his core subjects. This student also attends our classes for presentations and projects.
This student’s parent is very outspoken and, quite frankly, is a bully. The plan for this conference was for all three teachers, the aide and an administrator to meet all together and have a quick discussion before moving on to the meeting with the parent.
The bully (picture a lumbering water buffalo) arrived early. The other teacher and I (picture one calmly grazing gazelle and a twitchy meerkat, guess which one I am.) watched the slow approach. The gazelle looked at his notes and said calmly, “We don’t have you scheduled for another thirty minutes.” The meerkat said, “garrble blarkity thirty minutes.” The last of this sentence was said as I glanced over to the main table where the counselor had been sitting just moments before. She was not there;I hopped up with my meerkat arms in the air and zipped over to another conference table where two other teachers, one of whom is a former football player and is well over 6’5″. (Picture these two as large, kind animals, friendly rhinos perhaps.) I popped my meerkat head in between the two of them and said, in what I hoped was a calm voice, but probably wasn’t, “I need one of you to come over to our conference.” I was rewarded with a kindly, “We are just wrapping up here.” I said something akin to, “No time, Sabu! Beast at watering hole.” I zinged out of the cafeteria and down the hall where the counselor, the aide and the sweet secretary were waiting. At this point everything was starting to look like an horrifying documentary. The counselor (a small, wise owl) and the aide (a very patient mama bear) and the secretary (a friendly bird, like the ones that helped Snow White) all looked at my wild giant meerkat eyes and asked me what was going on. I began to explain and then realized what my flight must have looked like. And the result is that I left a calm gazelle alone at the watering hole. And then I started to laugh. I couldn’t stop laughing for several minutes but got it together long enough to have that conference. It went fine.
And then I lost it. I laughed so hard I was sent out into the hall. When I came back the student asked me, “Did you ever get your toaster problem worked out?”
That is a story for another time.
Fortunately this student’s parents think I’m just the right kind of crazy to teach their child.