Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Parent-Teacher-Child Conferences

As a teacher for the past eight years, I have been to more than my share of parent-teacher conferences. And now that my daughter Isabel is in school I am experiencing these meeting from both sides of the table several times a year. The parents of my students pay a lot of money for their children to go to school and they expect to have my full attention for at least forty-five minutes. Therefore it takes a lot of work to prepare for these conferences, and sometimes the entire process can leave me feeling frazzled and spent. It affects my mood and my anxiety levels.

I got a window into just how much these conferences affect me when I woke up one morning having had the following dream. The following is the conversation my wife Erica and I had with our daughter Isabel in a dream I had shortly before waking up for another day of conferences.

“Hello, Isabel. Welcome to this semester’s parent-child conference.”

“Hi, dad. Hello, mom.”

“We are so glad you were able to make it in during the day. We know how hard it can be to get time away from school for these conferences in the middle of the morning.”

“No problem. I just told my teacher I needed the time for a parent-child conference and she was very understanding. She has kids of her own.”

“Well, that’s great. Just great. So, have you had a chance to look through your report card yet? If not, why don’t you take a minute to read through it. We find the report card makes an excellent jumping off place for a discussion of what sort of progress you are making as our child.”

“Yes, indeed, I have read the report card and I must say I find it a little puzzling.”

“Puzzling? In what way?”

“Well, for instance, right here, where it says that I have a ‘C’ in bathroom…that seems a little low to me. I take a bath most nights and I seem to do just fine in there. I wash…I use soap…I come out smelling 99 and 44/100 percent pure. And all I get is a ‘C’?!?”

“There is the matter of follow through, honey. You never remember to drain the tub and rinse away the ring of soap scum. That is part of bathroom, too, you know. And don’t forget flushing. I can’t tell you the number of times I have raised the lid and gotten quite a surprise in there. Your father and I just know you can remember to pull the plug and to flush. We just know you can. And to help motivate you to do these things we have left some room in your grade for improvement.”

“Gee, thanks a lot.”

“Anything else you find confusing?”

“Now that you ask, yes, there is something else. How on earth could I have a ‘D’ in car?”

“That is one your mother and I disagree on, Isabel. She thought you should have a ‘C’ and I believe you deserve an ‘F’. So we split the difference and gave you a ‘D’. Quite generous if you ask me.”

“I see the ‘D’, but I don’t understand why.”

“Do the words ‘are we there yet’, mean anything to you?”

“That’s because you always go places that are so far away. You think it’s fun for me, staring at the back of your headrest, listening to those not-funny guys talk about cars and that other really not-funny guy tell boring stories about Lake Wobegong or whatever? If you were me you’d be asking the same thing. Oh, and one more thing. What about that time we stopped at the rest area in New Jersey and you started to drive away without me. It was a lucky thing I came out of the bathroom and saw you pulling out. (Probably wouldn’t even have seen you if I had stopped to flush.) What about the No Child Left Behind law? You almost broke that one! And yet I am the one getting a ‘D’ in car?!?”

“We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one, Bel. One we can agree on is your ‘A’ in waking up. You are up by 6:15 every morning without fail. Your mother and I have been meaning to talk to you about this one. We think you may be pushing yourself too hard in this one area. It’s okay to let yourself slide once in a while, say, on a Saturday or Sunday morning, for instance. Give it a try. No need to put so much pressure on yourself to wake up early every morning.”

“Are you crazy? The one subject I have an ‘A’ in and you want me to slack off? No way.”

“So, Isabel, it looks like in spite of your sub-par performance this semester your mother and I will be keeping you in the family and continuing in our role as your parents. We know you have it in you to get straight A’s and we want to help get you there. When you apply yourself you really are capable of wonderful things. Do you have any further questions for us?”

“I do have just one question. Have you had a chance to read through your report card? If so, let’s get this child-parent conference started…”

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