Thursday, March 4, 2021

One Last Conference for the Road

We had our last ever parent-teacher conference today.

They don’t do those sorts of things in college. Once you get to college you’re expected to handle that sort of thing on your own. There are even laws about that. As a professor, I am legally barred from discussing anything about my students with their parents unless those students have signed paperwork expressly allowing me to do so. This is something that not every parent gets, to be honest.

But before that, there are conferences.

We’ve gone to them all. Of course we have.

At Not Bad President Elementary there was only one teacher you had to locate and you selected a time and showed up to the room for a nice conversation. At Mighty Clever Guy Middle School they put all of the teachers in the cafeteria at tables and gave you a time slot to visit the one teacher who probably knew the least about your child – their homeroom teacher – but you could sort of mill about and catch up with all of the others, which was always worthwhile.

At Local Businessman High School they also put all of the teachers in the cafeteria (and thereabouts – there are a lot of teachers), but they don’t give you a time slot. You just show up and hang around until you collect the whole set. We’d walk around with a list, checking them off one by one until we’d covered everyone.

Not everyone goes to these things, which always mystified me a bit. I know that not everyone can get to them, what with work or other commitments, but some of the people who can go choose not to. How can you not want to check in and make sure things are going well? How can you at least not want to check in to see if the stories your child tells you are correct? Oliver used to complain about how one of his teachers kept putting him to sleep and we didn’t believe him until we met the man – a guy who clearly cared about his students and might well have been a good teacher but whose manner was so soporific that we nearly didn’t make it out of the conference awake. Oliver transferred to a different and more lively teacher after that and did well.

These days they’re all online and you have to schedule them through one of those sign-up services, and you log in and chat for a bit before you do the whole “wave at the screen” thing that nobody ever did before the pandemic forced us all to become Zoombies and then you log into the next one.

Lauren is graduating in June, and that will mark the end of our time in Our Little Town’s school district. So of course we signed up for conferences. We saw them all, there on the little screen.

They all had lovely things to say about Lauren, of course. She’s smart, mature, focused and compassionate, and she’s grown up around teachers so she knows how to handle herself in a classroom.

I’m proud of her.

And now we’re done. There will be no more parent-teacher conferences for us.

The milestones creep up on you as you get older. They come thick and fast when you’re young and then there’s a long period where they don’t happen much at all, and then they do again.

If you’re lucky, you notice them while they’re happening.


LucyInDisguise said...

Parent Teacher Conferences. Ah, yes, I remember it well.

Despair not, oh wizened one. It is a never ending story - there's always the Grandkids.


David said...

The grandparents mostly hear about these things second hand, though. At least that was my experience.

It is good to let things move on in their time, but yes, I will remember it well.

I've never seen that movie, though as a theater person I know the song. I love songs like that. :)

LucyInDisguise said...

We had the, admittedly unusual, advantage(?) of being directly involved in the education of our first two grandchildren. Necia was only 16 when Ty was born - my wife decided (primarily based on her own experience) to ignore Planned Parenthood’s advice* and took over parenting duties for the first couple of years so our daughter had the opportunity “to just be a teenager” and not get bogged down with that whole “Young Mother Syndrome” thing. It was a mistake that Sue recognizes and accepts responsibility for, but while she regrets that, if you ask, she’ll tell you that she’d do it exactly the same way if placed in that position again. Of course she would. She’s a Viking.

Where was I? Oh, yeah …

I can tell you from personal experience that, at least in the mid 1990’s, teachers tend to freak right the fuk out when the grandparents show up at parent-teacher conferences in place of the actual parent(s). I don’t have any current experience to draw from, thankfully, but since I am personally acquainted with three families where the grandparents are raising their grandchildren, that it’s probably not such a big deal anymore.


* I really need to do this: My wife and I are adamantly Pro-Choice. That is NOT synonymous with ‘pro-abortion’. When Necia turned up pregnant at 15 years old, we were delighted, and devastated. We did not have any clue as to what needed to be done, so we turned to Planned Parenthood for help. All options, including abortion were on the table. That’s what pro-choice means.

LucyInDisguise said...

Ooooh, boy! Decided that I can’t just leave it hanging like that.

The Planned Parenthood Councilor carefully and thoroughly walked the three of us through each option, focusing on Necia, and making certain that she understood all of the ramifications - pro & con - of each of the options. Reaching a decision in such circumstances is easier when you are thoroughly informed by an unbiased professional.

It wasn’t easy. Upon reflection, it shouldn’t be easy. But once the decision was made, the Councilor set up an appointment where Necia was not present to advise us on how we needed to proceed, what to watch out for, what to do, and, most important of all, what NOT to do, which my wife promptly ignored. So much for professional advice.

LucyInDisguise said...

Can’t just leave that hanging, either, right? Sorry for the hijack. Okay, the pertinent advice:

Necia needed to be placed in a position where she was forced to accept responsibility for this child that she was brining into to the world. Furthermore, she needed to be fully engaged in the care and parenting of the child, just like any other first time parent. As you know, when it comes to parenting there are things that you can only learn by doing - there really aren’t any options there. By ignoring that critical advice, Sue denied our daughter those opportunities to learn. Necia was completely lost and adrift on the birth of her second child. We are still, to this very day, helping our daughter and both those grandchildren to deal with the consequences of those early decisions.

And so, The Circle of Life* continues.


* I’ve just decided that Disney needs to be perpetually vilified for all eternity for popularizing that phrase in the The Lion King

And me, for ... never mind. QED

David said...

I think that most teachers are pretty happy when anyone shows up these days, and to be honest one of the best things about American culture in the last two decades has been the rapid expansion of what can legitimately be called a family. Children do best when raised in a loving family - and that family can be a great many things and mixtures, but the key part is loving. I would suspect that if you showed up with your grandchild today they wouldn't even bat an eye.

And yes, there is a world of difference between pro-choice and pro-abortion.

The ability to make an informed choice that conforms to your own values for your own life, and to guarantee that others can make the same choice, is the heart of the Pro-Choice movement. Sometimes people choose no. Sometimes people choose yes. But it is their choice.

I am old enough to remember when the heart of the American conservative movement was leaving people alone with their choices rather than forcing them to obey the dictates of someone else's faith. I think we should go back to that.

You make the best choice you can given the information at the time, and you live with the consequences. It sounds like you and Sue did that, and that's all you can do in this world. Necia is lucky to have you, even if you look back and would choose differently - you're there working with the consequences with her, and that's all you can do.

Planned Parenthood is one of the best organizations in the US, and I've always been proud to be a supporter.