Thursday, November 18, 2010


Parent-teacher conferences begin tonight. Somehow the nearness of the date managed to escape me even as I was frantically doing grades, making copies, killing trees by the thousands by filling out the trimester paperwork required by the get the drift. But the first one is tonight. Time to get my teacher face on!

If your only experience in education is having been a student, there's a secret I can let you in on. Teachers like to eat. A lot. Maybe it's because they frown on alcohol in schools; food becomes the only crutch we're allowed :). Whenever I have leftover tailgate or holiday food I take it to the teacher's lounge where it disappears in a few hours. We hold conferences two evenings after teaching a full day and the parent teacher organization feeds us. They bring in soups, sandwiches, pizzas, chips, bars...we like that. I mentioned our fondness for food, right? By the end of the evening it looks like a herd of locusts worked its way through the meal leaving only crumbs in its wake.

Scheduling conferences includes a great deal of strategy. Everyone's jockeying to place the chatty parents in the center of their schedules. God forbid they be last and talk an hour and a half to keep us there until 8:30. (It's happened.) Can this set of divorced parents conference together? Oh, they're still not speaking? Okay, two conferences it is, on different nights. The interpreter is only there on night, so foreign speaking parents must come then. Otherwise there's a lot of smiling and nodding going on, but no much meaningful conversation.

And then there's the secret language teachers speak. I'm not just talking about the acronyms that fill our lives. DOE, RTI, GEI, ADHD, LD, BD, ODD, OCD, BRAT...okay, I made that last one up. We don't use words like that. We have education-ese for that.

After I retire maybe I can hire out to interpret teacher talk for parents. Because we strive to be diplomatic, yet still get our point across. It's important to focus on the students' strengths, yet also discuss concerns. And to do it all in a way that the parent doesn't get mad, defensive or combative. (Yes, we sometimes have parents we are afraid to meet alone with. A sad fact of life.)

Here's a few education-ese examples for you. I helpfully provided the translations:

Patty is very social. (I can't get her to shut up.)

Johnny is very active. (I'm thinking of tying him to his seat.)

Jake can be overly assertive with his peers. (He's in their faces all the time.)

Rick has difficulty with authority figures. (He argues with me constantly.)

Lilah is quite imaginative. (The girl lies like a rug.)

Lest you think that I haven't been on the other side of the table at conferences, I'll tell you one of my most memorable experiences as a parent :). My second oldest son was in first grade and I went alone to speak to his teacher, whom I also knew socially. She started off the conversation animatedly,"You'll never believe what Jason told me!"

Now Jason was--ahem--quite imaginative (see translation above), so I immediately went into defensive mode. "I'll make you a deal," I told her. "I wont' believe everything he tells me about school if you don't believe everything he tells you about home."

She went on, "He said that every night when he's saying his prayers, his dad makes him say a prayer that you win the lottery!"

"Oh." Pause. "Well, that's true." (And why is it that dh is never with me to deal with the results of his outrageousness????)

Okay, spill! Do you have memorable stories from parent teacher conferences to share?


Helen Brenna said...

Too funny, Kylie!

School conferences are not something I'll miss after my youngest has graduated. Got another teacher-speak. Your son can get distracted (He doesn't listen to directions.) I have an absent-minded professor on my hands.

What grade do you teach?

Leanne said...

lol Love your husband's prompt for your son! And then YOU had to answer for it! Hated the IEP meetings. I think those are a nightmare for everyone -- parents, teachers, kids... everyone. I'm so glad that's over!

Lori said...

First, I'm laughing at BRAT, because my hubby teaches ED at the high school level, and has come up with an acronym/diagnosis for those kids that seem to get stuck in his program without an actual organic diagnosis: APD (a**hole personality disorder). Many times, he's wanted to tell a parent who asks what their child's issues are that they just have APD.

As for conferences? When my youngest was in kindergarten, at the very first conference his teacher noted, "Steve talks to his neighbors a lot. A lot. SO I moved him to a different spot. And he talked to those neighbors nonstop. So I moved him to sit by himself. So he just talks to himself."

And, yup, it's still the information I give to teachers when they ask me to describe my now-in-high-school son. Cause she had him nailed in kindergarten.

Michele Hauf said...

Kylie, God bless the teachers! You've got a tough job. I'm glad you get fed during conferences. That's a nice plus. I don't think our schools even bother to consider that for teachers.

I used to go to conferences to find out how my kids are doing, but also to assess the teachers. I wanted to see exactly what my kids were dealing with day in and out. The majority were awesome, but every once in a while I could pick out a bad apple from the bunch. That told me a lot. So when the teacher wasn't pleased with my daughter's progress, I realized it wasn't necessarily because she was a poor student, but perhaps the teacher wasn't doing his job properly. I could site an extreme example, but that's a whole 'nother blog.

Here's to some quick, smooth chats tonight!

lois greiman said...

Cute blog, Kylie.

Sadly, I miss parent/teacher cons. It was a feel good time. And I have to tell you, my kids have said, after starting college, that their professors were often not as knowledgeable or as good at imparting knowledge as their high school counterparts. So kudos to you and your kind. You're brave souls.

Cindy Gerard said...

Bless you Kylie and all of your teacher friends for the job you tackle day in and day out. I have two brother-in-laws who were teachers and my dt-in-law is a teacher. And I vaguely remember teacher's conferences as being a mix of hope that things weren't too bad, and appreciation for the patience involved!
Have fun tonight.

Playground Monitor said...

Yes, bless you. Sadly there are too many bad apples in the schools. We were fortunate and only dealt with two, which isn't bad since we had two boys go through the public school system for K-12.

When #1 son was in first grade, his teacher commented at our conference that she was moving him to the front of the room because the fish tank distracted him. A little while later, she also picked up on some other things which led us to have his eyes examined and learn he had a developmental eye problem, which was corrected with glasses and eye exercises. I've often wondered whether in today's let's-give-them-a-label classrooms if he wouldn't have automatically been called ADD instead of just easily distracted with a vision problem.

Favorite story about #2 son involves kindergarten. He was the perfect child in class. His bus never moved on the chart (that's what happened when you misbehaved). Then one day he did something and his bus was moved. He was so upset he told his teacher "my heart is hurting." She was afraid she'd set off a panic attack and sent him to the clinic where they called me. I was friends with the mom on duty that day and we talked a bit. He was having a bit of a panic attack because he feared the consequences of that bus moving. I gave him a talk about classroom behavior, but once he learned that a moving bus didn't involve a beating or being socially ostracized, that bus began moving more often. ~sigh~ Why didn't I beat him that night??? LOL!


KylieBrant said...

Helen I have K-5 elementary special education. Which, believe me, comes with its own set of acronyms and education-ese!

KylieBrant said...

Leanne, the staffings can be painful. I think it's especially difficult when a parent comes in and is faced with a table full of educators. Easy to feel outnumbered!

KylieBrant said...

Lori that's hilarious :) Your husband has nailed the diagnosis! And so funny about your son. Very often those first two years of conferences are exactly the same things you hear all twelve years of school!

KylieBrant said...

Michele, yep there's always a few. I ran into the same thing, but teaching for the district, I felt like I got the 'special treatment'. But still, being colleagues with the teachers means I had their number and could commiserate sometimes when my kids complained.

KylieBrant said...

Lois, we had an honors English teacher for the kids in 12th that did a superb job of preparing them for freshman English (college) in rhetoric. She just retired and was truly gifted at what she did.

KylieBrant said...

Cindy, technology has developed to the point that parents can check the student's grades online weekly in high school, which has cut down on attendance at their conferences. I'd have been online all the time had we had it when my kids were there!

KylieBrant said...

Marilyn, too too funny about the bus moving! For son number one we are required to eliminate other problems before placing them in a program so we have to do vision and hearing and health screenings before moving to an eval. How lucky that his teacher picked up on it!

catslady said...

I remember my first daughter's first preschool teacher that told me my daughter was a social butterfly - translation: she was talking with the other children all the time. To this day I regret that I in turn told my daughter to be quiet in school. She took me at my word and remained too quiet. I learned later on that the preschool teacher was having some personal problems and quite burned out and probably shouldn't have been teaching. She didn't want any of the kids doing anything but sit there - quite a task for preschoolers. Luckily she got a wonderful teacher the next year :)

KylieBrant said...

Catslady, the nice thing for teachers AND kids is that every year is a new year with a new face :) My third son's second grade teacher referred him to the counselor because he was 'too quiet'. This teacher is a rather--ahem--emotional Italian lady. She drove Jordan nuts because she was so scattered and disorganized. The next year he and his teacher clicked--they're both quietly funny, organized and sequential. That's our biggest challenge as teachers is to see beyond the problems a child may cause to the strengths that child has...and figure out how to best draw on those strengths.

Pamela Keener said...

This is not my story to tell but I chuckle everytime I think of it. Last year my BF brother & sister-in-law's little boy entered kindergarten. They went to the first Parent teacher meeting and thought all was hunky doory when the teacher asked why the notes she was sending home weren't returned with their signature. They never got the notes which said that he was disruptive in class. He just threw them away LOL
Love & Hugs,

Anonymous said...

I remember my seventh grade science teacher telling my parents what a great project I did. I nearly bit my tongue off trying not to say anything. That project was slapped together the night before from whatever I could find in the junk drawer. Either I was more brilliant than I thought or my fellow students' projects were even worse; I still don't know. I often wondered what my parents thought since they were well aware of my lack of effort on that particular project.

For the most part, I've had good teachers. There was my third grade teacher who told my mother that I was stupid (no one in my family believed her, including me), but that was it. As a student in elementary school, I saw how thankless a teacher's job was and when my mother was considering getting a certification to teach, we kids wouldn't let her. So, kudos for all the teachers, even the bad ones, for putting up with us kids and trying to teach us something along the way!

KylieBrant said...

Pamela, I've had that happen too often! Love parents who have email so that can't happen!

KylieBrant said...

Cories, maybe she had you mixed up with someone else, LOL. I once had a teacher--come to think of it it was the same one from the story--do one of those sweet silhouettes of Jason. The kind you want to frame and save? Thing was, the silhouette she sent home had curly hair :) My son had straight hair. I kept insisting that it belonged to the other Jason in the class but I never did get my son's silhouette!