Source: Times Online

I’m now quite accustomed to addressing up to thirty children at once. I can do enthusiasm, I can do motivation and I can even do “I’m not angry I’m just disappointed”. In general, I can start and end a lesson without heart palpitations or profusely sweating.

Calling a pupil’s parent, however, still requires a deep breath. I’ve talked to some lovely supportive helpful parents. I’ve also been patronised, ignored and shouted at in Romanian. The denial some parents feel about their children is astonishing. So when it came to Termly Learning Conference – which is like daytime parents’ evening – I was intimidated.

As the first parent child combo sat down I had a moment of complete blank. I could not remember a thing about this child. Were they even in my class? At that point I wasn’t sure. And their dad was very tall with a very firm handshake. Fortunately as soon as I started stuttering and shuffling through data and results time zipped by. Turns out parents are, on the whole, far more interested in their child’s progress than my latent insecurities….

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It’s a strange balancing act dealing with parents, it felt very difficult to get the right message across. There always seems to be a gap in communication. There’s the parent who refuses to believe their child is naughty.

“Despite a positive start we’ve been having some issues with Jimmy’s attitude to learning,” I say.

“Oh he’s been very excited about school,” parent replies.

“Well if he could channel some of that positivity into his French lessons. Because if we look at his report it says…”

“Jimmy says his French teacher is unfair.”

“Well…”

You look at the butter-wouldn’t-melt face of the child and think uncharitable thoughts. It is important to be diplomatic at parent-teacher conferences but you wonder – even if you were decidedly undiplomatic would Mama Jimmy believe that he threw chairs?

Then there’s the parent who can’t see how wonderful their child is.

“But what’s this?” queried Lauren’s dad.

“That’s a consequence, it’s like an anti-merit. It’s fairly minor and all term she’s only had one,” I reply.

“What did she do?” frowns Dad.

“Well she was chatty once but if you see here Lauren is top of the class for merits and…”

“Well we’re going to have to do something about her behaviour,” says dad as Lauren looks on melancholic.

“She really is a delight to teach…” I protest.

“But this consequence thing…”

How much more can you say?

Sometimes though, against all the odds, you and the parent are on absolutely the same wave length.

I looked from the interpreter to the mother and smiled a little nervously. This could be complicated. But before I had even started to talk the mother started.

“She is concerned that Mohamed isn’t trying hard enough to learn English because he doesn’t need to. He has friends he can talk to in his home language and all he wants to do is play football,” the interpreter explains.

“Well that’s actually the first thing I was going to say,” slowly I began relaxing. “And I’ve talked to language support and they can offer -” But before I can finish:

“Mum wants to know what she can do,” says the interpreter.

What can she do? Oh those golden words. Only so much is possible without the parents. Their cooperation and enthusiasm makes everything so much easier. Mum smiles, I smile and Mohamed looks grumpy. He’s realised his mum and I are on the same team.

by Lily Eastwood

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