Parent-Teacher Meetings


As a child, I feared nothing more than the Parent-Teacher meetings, perhaps because I was never an ideal student. Twice a year, when the time for report cards came around, I found myself talking less, praying more and volunteering to carry out chores that usually would require bribes no less than a new video game. Fast forward a few decades and couple of kids later, and I’m happy to report that my perception of these meetings has become more positive. I attribute this change to the shift in strategy; from the Mortal Kombat style reviews to more politically correct “I’m going to tell you how bad things are in a really nice way.” The confusion, however, at Parent-Teacher meetings is still, well, confusing!

If you grew up in the ‘70s, you knew what every other kid knew. The teacher is always right, and your parents are not going to listen to a word you have to say. There was no tip-toeing, no Mr. Nice guy, just destruction of freedom by child-unfriendly missiles, directed at you.
If you were a bully that is exactly what your parents were told. If you threw temper tantrums, guess what, there was no medicated help, just a slap on the wrist and corner wall for a full period. Dogs were not allowed to eat the homework; that excuse came much later!

Now, at Parent-Teacher interviews, assuming you can find your child’s teacher in the maze, you hear polite, safe-for-children terms that make no sense. For example, a safe way of saying that Akbar is a bully would be: “Akbar is very aggressive with other children. Perhaps you should consider having a dialogue with him.” Remember that girl everyone was afraid of who sat in front of the class and would throw a tantrum at the slightest provocation? Well, this is how a teacher would introduce the “issue” to parents: “It is normal for Samantha to act out when asked why she did not complete her homework.”

Being a teacher has always been a difficult task. It requires patience. The ‘70s and the ‘80s had their challenges, but mutual suspicion was not one of them. Naughty or nice, you knew what was coming. Now, neither parents nor students are entirely sure; either that or they are simply indifferent. But do you blame the teachers? In my opinion, some parents, while expecting the teachers to ‘look after’ their children for better part of the day, expect not to be told the whole truth; at least not for the first time at a Parent-Teacher meeting. It seems that the more open we are, the more closed we are getting.
It will be interesting to see what the next generation brings.

In our house, the principle is simple. If it is true, say it. Be nice about it, but say it. Be respectful but honest. We dutifully ask ourselves this question from the Holy Quran “So what would you have after discarding the truth except error?” [10:34]

A salute to the teachers everywhere, for the future of this planet, is in your hands, at least partially. I look forward to the next Parent-Teacher meeting, assuming I am invited after posting this blog!

One thought on “Parent-Teacher Meetings”

  1. Yes, I would have to say that I have become an expert in this kind of speak. The reason is self-preservation. Also the real truth, which your memories of school and childhood attest to, is that teachers in the past were bullies and applauded for sticking it to kids! Now parents are finding it hard to hear unpleasant things about their children. If they do find it hard, then you have to be very clever in the framing of the truth to avoid reactionary or negative thoughts which don’t help the situation.Once you have parents less prickly and amenable to working together, then the suggestions or teamwork can begin. It can be exhausting, but the most difficult children often have real deficits in their family life or serious learning difficulties. The reality is, children are a product of their environment and there are usually very complicated reasons why children behave the way they do. In the long run, I feel that acceptance, love, firm boundaries, understandable consequences and lots of conversation work the best in ideal circumstances. Now, to deal with those ideal circumstances…..

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