This afternoon I promise I’m going to be better. I’m not going to eavesdrop. My ears will not strain to hear every word that is being said. My cochlea will not quiver in auditory anticipation. Today, I will give it my all to behave during parent-teacher conferences in the high school gym.
That’s right: the gym, because in my school district once your child enters the ninth grade you begin a four-year journey of speed dating their teachers. No more loving, one-on-one, tête-à-têtes in the classroom. It’s you, the teachers and hundreds of parents looking for their gradebook soul mate in the gym. (Yes, you can still make an appointment for a discreet, 15-minute conference in a dimly lit, secluded classroom, but that’s only for parents seeking a long-term relationship with the teacher.)
Trust me, this whole parent-teacher conference speed dating thing is not very romantic, what with the lingering smell of teenage feet, unflattering fluorescent lights and the off-gassing of janitorial mop water. All the teachers are lined up alphabetically in the gym and are given a small desk, two chairs and a sign with their name on it. You only get five minutes with each teacher and zero privacy.
Plus, the whole waiting your turn thing really is a mood killer. Depending on the teacher and the class they teach (usually math or any AP class, especially AP European history, due to what my son says “is the first time you realize more than a rote memorization of facts is required to succeed in a history class”) you can have parents lined up more than 20 deep waiting for their five minutes.
And yeah, as you wait and slowly scoot up in the line, you’re close enough to the teacher and the other parent currently in the speed dating chair that you can pretty much hear everything that is being said. Sure, you make a valiant attempt not to listen. You look at your phone and pretend to be engrossed in your email or Candy Crush, but try as you might you can’t stop yourself. Okay, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I can’t stop myself but I’m certain I always see other parents with their heads tilted and their ears angled in the optimum position for eavesdropping.
Shame on me, I know. But seriously some of this stuff is riveting and all of it is testimony to the fact that teachers are doing the Lord’s work and I don’t care if they get a couple of months off a year, we’re not paying them enough. Back in October, during the last parent-teacher conference, there was an angry mom whom I thought was going to go to blows with a teacher because their kid had a 92 in the class. A 92! (Let’s call that 913 problems.) The parent thought their kid should have a “higher A.” An “A+ A.”
The teacher held her ground and explained very slowly and using single-syllable words that an A was an A and that the parent needed to calm down and all was well because the district didn’t have A+ designations on their report cards. The parent finally stomped off. I wanted to applaud the teacher or blow her kisses or something. Instead I pretended like I hadn’t heard a thing.
My favorite is when a parent sits down and moans and groans about how hard their kid studies and then the teacher does a few clicks on the computer and voila no homework has been turned in for two weeks straight. You would think the parent would assure the teacher that they are immediately heading home to threaten their child with all sorts of punishments. But NO, the parent argues with the teacher and tells them they’re wrong. WTH? How can you have made it all the way to high school with your kid and not have figured out you do not raise your voice to a teacher (especially in a crowded gym) or argue against the empirical evidence in the almighty gradebook?
To avoid nasty surprises like this, I always ask my son if there is anything I need to know before I go to “date” his teachers. My high schooler also sets my speed dating agenda. I’m told to go to the teachers that “like him the least” and then work my way up to the teachers “that love him.” I’m also instructed to text him ASAP with any good or bad news.
I never text him. I can’t. I’m too busy listening to what’s going down in that gym.