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 government…you 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?

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