Every fall, parents across the country wait to be assigned some mutually inconvenient time for parent and teacher to conference regarding the academic progress (all 8 weeks of it) for each child. Now I'm sure for the parents of the gifted & talented students, there is a certain joy of expectation. For the parents of kids with IEP’s (Individual Education Plans for those not in the know), these autumn-fests are not the highlight of the social calendar. I will admit to a certain "oy vey" feeling in my stomach heading off to hear how my ADHD Son1 likes to shout out in class (MY Son?), talks in class-- a lot (no WAY?!), and needs to work to curb his impulses. (REALLY? Wow- I hadn't noticed he was impulsive, seriously?). I will hear that Son2 has issues transitioning from one task to another (GET OUT) and may, at times, simply close his books, push them to the side and have a good long day dream. That is the inevitable point at which I, year after year, suppress what would be a very poorly-timed giggle and try to rein in my own attention.
I don't mean to diminish in any way what the teachers do with my kids. But they're in 5th and 7th grades now. I want to hear something new. Since that would mean going to some other kid's conference which is frowned upon, I think we need to rethink the way we have parents and teachers meet. How 'bout we just cut the pedantic pleasantries and we cut to the heart of the matter. You would like, in no particular order, for me to enforce with my sons that they need to:
1) Give homework at least a passing glance
2) Stop shouting out every answer, every time, every day
3) Attempt to walk a semi-straight line to transition to class on time
4) Remember books, at least every so often
5) Chain the homework planner to their persons to ensure ready access when it counts, like say, when planning homework.
Ok? We're good to go? Pedantic pleasantries and filial formalities resolved, here's what I think we should be doing. We should be having wine. Yes, I know it's not allowed on school property, but maybe just this once we'll sort that out. What we have here are stilted interviews with parents wanting so badly to hear good news, while conditioned to one teacher after another telling them what the issues are. I can barely get through a holiday dinner without valium so I am well aware that their behaviors can be disruptive in group settings. I'm not being negative. I'm being honest. I'm their mom. I know Son1 & Son2 are scatter-brained, talk a lot, and lose important stuff. No sense wasting tax payer time telling me again. The mood's all wrong. We need to work as partners; we need to break the first marking period ice. We need... to toast.
The wrong mood all started back just a few weeks into the year, with Back to School Night. I know you need to run down the budget crisis, the NJ ASK (or whatever standardized state test du jour you respectively have), and shock and awe us with your enthusiasm for our kids. But I'm a middle school parent, and looking around the not so crowded gym, I'd say the bloom is off the rose in the parent interest level by middle school. Our kids don't leave us cute pictures on their desks and nice letters to Mommy. The novelty of sitting in their little desks is gone. The "fun" has passed. Hell, Son1 won't even tell me his locker# and combo for fear of snooping. But yes, parents should be more engaged in the education. I whole heartedly agree when I hear that. So draw us back in, with wine.
Trust me, if you uncork it- they will come. If I ran back to school nights, they would have been open house style cocktail parties to kick off the year ahead, rather than stilted, marginally attended PowerPoint displays that the teachers clearly put a lot of work in to for no where near the parent showing that they should get. We could have had punch in Phys-Ed, Oktoberfest in Social Studies (it's kind of cultural), and studied fermentation in Science. A little intro by the 6th grade Jazz band would have been nice. Can ya dig it? I knew thatcha would.
If I ran Parent-Teacher conferences, they would be very intimate little tête-à-têtes. We'd discuss test scores over brie. Perhaps some crostini would be shared as you encouraged me and I encouraged you. As these are small gatherings, one more one on one, I'd suggest we serve by the glass. Those little airline bottles may be ideal too. Ooooh I know! Set up a mini bar in the corner. While I cracked it open for some Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies that seem to invade all mini-bars, I'd grab a Chivas or two. By mini-bar rates that would be about $52. Doesn't seem so hard to raise the moolah to send the 8th grade to Washington DC now, does it? Think about it.
These are just my humble suggestions, for you to find some ways to build parent interest during these tween years when our own kids drive us to drink. I may submit this to the Superintendent. It's too late for this year, but maybe they could take some action for next year. I wish I thought of this sooner. This afternoon, we have Son1's Social Studies, Science, and Math teachers all in a 45 minute span. Without advance warning, they'd probably think it a little odd if I showed up with a baguette and Bordeaux. Ah well, it’s their loss.