The Parent-Teacher Conference
My son was beaten up at school many years ago. Three or four days after this happened, he crossed the street without waiting for the patrol to let him. The patrol guard was one of the children who smashed him to the ground. They gave him a ticket to spend "an afternoon at the police station" for this infraction. This was the conversation that followed.
"Your child isn't concentrated, he is sloppy, he disrupts class, he fights with other children and is rude to his teachers. If he is corrected, he argues that he is right. I think the reason he got beaten up during recess is that he annoys everyone. You have to understand the others points of view. Do you realize he crossed the street without waiting for the Patrol to allow him? This is serious Mam; I think he needs a day with the police to straighten him out."
Yes, this conversation happened. I stayed cool but when the assistant head had stopped his five-minute destruction of my son I asked one simple question, "Are you trying to intimidate me? I know my son, but I would like to know, do you? Although I know some of this to be true, do you see any of his qualities? Can you give him a compliment?" The man looked shocked! His answer, "No, I don't know him, I talked to his teachers who are displeased."
What was meant to be a twenty-minute conversation with the soul purpose of a crying mom turned into a full hour and a half conversation. I did not cry that day, I did not let them bash my child unfairly, but I kept my cool and stayed realistic. We left in respect for one another, and the assistant head will never forget that day. He was embarrassed and told me so.
By the time this had happened I was in my fourth country and in a public school. I had learned many things by making mistakes and falling flat on my face with teachers in school systems that I was not familiar with. This rule goes for teachers and parents alike. Number one, culture plays a role in a parent-teacher conference, number two listen, and number three your child or student might just act like a different person at school. I know when my husband's colleagues describe him I wonder if I have met that man.
I am heading out to a few parent teacher conferences today. Another school, another mentality and I will see what awaits me today. My son is still a character, but it should be just fine today... I know him and I think I have seen it all.
—Allison Ochs Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife