Monday, January 7, 2008

parent-teacher conferences

This entry is in honor of Nicole Beckford who somehow weasled out of conferences tonight. Just in case you forgot what you missed...

First, it's important that I share with you my 3:1 Theory of Meetings. In my opinion, for every one minute of actual work that gets done during a meeting, there are three minutes that are wasted. So if a meeting lasts an hour, it most likely could have been over after fifteen minutes if it had been run efficiently. In fact, with the advent of email, I think that meetings are, by and large, obsolete. We have nine faculty meetings at BFHS every year. I think we genuinely need two of those. And I'm being generous.

ANYWHO, you can multiply the 3:1 Theory out by a factor of 10 when it comes to parent-teacher conferences. In the 2 1/2 hours that I'm going to be here tonight (yes, I'm writing this as I sit here parentless during hour two), I will have had two important conferences. That's it. Let's say that we were going to make a matrix for parents and we had Showed Up on the x-axis and Needed to Show Up on the y-axis. Here's how it would break down:

QUADRANT I (Showed Up, Didn't Need to Show Up): 12%
QUADRANT II (Didn't Show Up, Didn't Need to Show Up): 63%
QUADRANT III (Didn't Show Up, Needed to Show Up): 23%
QUADRANT IV (Showed Up, Needed to Show Up): 2%

That's correct. The 2% in Quadrant IV is the only 2% I really needed. (In tonight's case, a girl who has A's on all of her tests and F's on all of her papers and ought to be doing better; and a young man whose freshman English teacher said was one of the top two students in his class and who is now failing, as far as I can tell, everything.) So that's the 50:1 Theory of Parent-Teacher Conferences.

Now, even though only 14% of parents show up, there's quite a bit of a variety in that group. Here are the 8 basic archetypes that you'll find among parents at conferences:

The Lingerer. We are supposed to spend no more than five minutes with any parents so as to keep things moving. The Lingerer finishes the conference, then spends the next 10-12 minutes shuffling toward the door and discussing all manner of things, excluding his/her student's performance in my class.

The Perfectionist. I print grade reports for every student that I give to their parents so we have something to talk about. The Perfectionist's son/daughter has a 97% in my class, so the grade report looks like this: 100, 100, 98, 100, 80, 96, 96. The Perfectionist zeroes in on the 80 (which is inevitably a 4/5 on some meaningless check quiz) and says, "So what's the story behind this BC?"

The Ex-Student. Not of mine, obviously, but of my dad's. Man, there are a ton of them. How long did he teach? Like 75 years? Every other parent starts with, "You know, I had your dad for class back in..."

The Buddy's Parent. This is another one that is specific to me, and potentially very embarassing. Since I was a student here just 10 years ago (!), I sometimes have little brothers and sisters of kids I went to school with. Which means that their parents knew me when I was a know-it-all teenager who ate their pizza and left my Mountain Dew cans on the floors of their cars. These can be awkward conversations, especially if the kid is a dirtbag.

ME: I'm sorry, Mrs. Smith, but Jimmy just isn't as focused as he could be.
MRS. SMITH: Oh, yeah? Remember when you threw up in my kitchen because Dave dared you to eat a banana with the peel still on it?

The Lookalike. This is the parent who looks so much like his/her kid that you almost can't concentrate on the conference because you're staring. It's a small group, but they freak me out.

The Confidant. I will never understand the Confidant. This is the parent who, for some reason, thinks that it's okay to complain about other teachers to you. Why would this be okay? I can't imagine anything more awkward than some parent saying, "Well, I'm glad she's doing well in here. Now I don't know what's wrong with Teacher X. You know, Katie says that he doesn't even tell them what's wrong with their papers when he hands them back? I mean, you would never do that, would you?" Yikes.

The Liar. Again, an inexplicable sort of individual. This is the person who says, "Well, I'm really disappointed. I mean, Larry has always gotten A's in English. It's his best subject." Well, no it's not. First of all, I know that because Larry couldn't find a coherent sentence with both hands and a flashlight. And second, I have this thing called PowerSchool, and you can bet that the second you leave, I'm checking Larry's grades to see what he's done in his other English class. Yup, just as I suspected...

The Eye Roller. This one is actually kind of funny. You have this big speech planned--I really think that Tina could get an A, but she seems content with a C. I really wish she'd apply herself a little more. Blah, blah, blah--and all they do is smile and roll their eyes as if to say, "Tell me about it. You're the fourth teacher tonight that's said that." I actually feel sort of sorry for the eye rollers. Lousy kids.

That's pretty much it. There would be more, but the parents of the kids who are failing and disrespectful never show up. And that explains an awful lot.

Later gators.

1 comment:

Stacy said...

I love the word dirtbag.

And, I love that college professors don't have to deal with parents.