The past few days have been especially draining for me. Once again, it’s that time in the semester when I (grudgingly) invite my students’ parents into my classroom for individual parent-teacher conferences for four straight hours. Honestly, I’d much rather just be teaching (or even going for a root canal), but it’s one of those things that inevitably comes with the educator territory.
Since I’m also teaching a couple of high school courses, I’m essentially doing double duty. As in two four-hour shifts in one day (in addition to my morning classes). Yick.
By this point in my career, I cannot count the number of times I have had to bite my tongue – hard – and endure some rather unpleasant situations involving parents of students. Now, granted that not all parents are ass hats, and that the typical parent/teacher conference does not take place under the best of circumstances. However, that is still not an excuse for passive-aggression, finger pointing, or just downright nastiness. I feel like I’ve just about experienced it all by this point. I wish sometimes that I could be as brutally frank with some of these parents as they are with me, but I would like to keep my job.
If only I could post something right outside my classroom door as required reading material for parents to look over before they go in for their actual conference, it would probably look something like this:
Yes, your kid is unique… Just like everyone else’s
Yes, I am very much aware that your child is bright, sensitive, and important to you. I know that your little snowflake may require extra special attention (beyond the requirements of his standard IEP) for whatever cause or basis, and believe me, I will do what I can within reason to accommodate that. Key words: “Within reason.”
Please keep in mind that I still teach at least a number of other students whose parents feel the exact same way in the same class. Times six. Each day. And I have a significantly smaller quantity of students than most of my colleagues have! I can realistically only do so much. Furthermore, if I permit your student to have absolutely every possible individual accommodation put in place, you have to kind of wonder at what point does it cross the line from “accommodating” to “coddling” or “enabling”?
I don’t “give” grades
As much as I wish I could sometimes, the grades that your child received on their report card were earned by your child. They are not arbitrary scores, nor are they an indication of how much I like (or dislike) him/her. I honestly do try to keep in mind not only the end product, but also the overall progress that the student has made and the process they went through. I really do try to be as objective and grade as holistically as possible.
Speaking for the way my classes are evaluated, however, it is damn near impossible to fail the class unless the student is not turning in homework. And having to leave a paper trail about how many times I’ve warned the student about their lack of homework, contacted the parents to warn them about the lack of homework, and documented all the accommodations that I’ve put in place (including extended deadlines) for the student due to lack of homework is getting a bit ridiculous.
If you are going to schedule an individual appointment… Come to the damn appointment!
There’s not much else that I can add to this one. Pretty straightforward and simple, but you’d be surprised how frequently this happens. In any case, if I’m taking the time to collect “evidence” and to prepare to talk about your child, please do come. One of my greatest pet peeves is when the parents are no-shows and they want to reschedule on my time just because they flaked out on the original conference. Grrrrr!
Please, wear a bra.
… Yeah, that one was a rather uncomfortable PT conference! No clever meme for that one! Let’s just skip over this. Moving on…
You’d better believe I give a damn about my vocation, but believe it or not, I am not only a teacher.
I am also a wife, a mother, a friend, and a human being, among many other roles that I play in my life and the lives of people outside of the classroom. I don’t live at the school, and I don’t always want to spend my entire weekends and evenings being a lean, mean grading machine. A major part of how effective I am during school hours is impacted greatly by the freedom that I have during downtime to relax and be someone other than Ms. White the teacher. I don’t dance on tables in a bar (not anymore, anyways), but I still do enjoy my time off the clock. Please respect that.
Please don’t take cheap verbal swipes at me
“It must be the way you teach.” “I have to wonder where exactly the weakness in your system lies.” “Your Spanish is horrible!” (… but I teach English!).
You’d be surprised at some of the needlessly nasty things that I’ve heard. Critique my teaching style if you must (even if you’ve never sat in on a single one of my lessons!), kvetch about how I’m not meeting all the unique needs of your little scholar, but remember that I am human. And some of the things you say can be unnecessarily hurtful. A significant part of my identity is tied up with my profession. It is something that I take pride in doing well and am affected when you feel like you can say things that are way out of line.
With that being said, “I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you about little Jimmy. I look forward to seeing you again.”