Parent-teacher meetings. I remember them well. I remember them more fondly for either getting the day off or finishing earlier and being allowed to go home. Some parent teacher meetings, I waited for news once my parents (more often than not my mother) came home. On the rare occasion, like an exam year, I accompanied them.
My director encourages us to ask the students to come with their parents for notas day (notas being the Spanish for mark/result). In my first year, I had an interpreter helping me to chat to the parents in Spanish, so I decided not to tell too many classes that I wanted them to come. With a little more confidence this year I found myself flying solo and, feeling more confident, decided to tell my classes I wanted to see them on the day.
There was a mixed reaction. You could tell which students felt more confident about their recently sat exams. One student was adamant he would wait outside, and run as soon as he sensed a negative body language once his father exited my room. Others felt more than happy with the idea, and some went to humorous lengths to say why they couldn’t go – leading to flashbacks when a then classmate used an ‘emergency wedding’ as an excuse. Yes, you read that correctly.
You can never properly prepare yourself for a parents evening. There were some results I knew weren’t a reflection on what I had seen in class, and therein lies the fear of facing some parents on my list. When you work in a language academy that provides extra help to students struggling in school for a price, the unfortunate downside to this is that some parents believe spending such money guarantees success regardless of the student. Unknowing to some, success depends on a triumvirate coming together: a prepared teacher, a determined student, and encouraging parents.
Sadly in most cases, it often feels as though the first of these carries much more of the weight than others. In this profession we prepare as much as we can, we make it as interesting and engaging as we can, and of course we try to make it as challenging as possible. But over the course of a week, we are only in contact with them for so many hours. Miracle workers? It sometimes feels as though they think we are.
In the droves the parents came and went. A good student resulted in congratulations, a keep it up and the odd time a high five. A student that could and should have done better took a little longer. ‘Perhaps they were nervous?’ ‘It’s obvious they didn’t read the question carefully before answering…’ ‘It’s a shame because this isn’t a reflection on their ability,’ were phrases often used.
Some parents were a little more challenging. One student passed with flying colours in both their written and oral exams. I was delighted to hand over such a report card. ‘Is there anywhere they can improve upon?’ the parent asked. I wanted to shout. ‘IMPROVE? JUST BE PROUD OF YOUR CHILD! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?’ Back in the room it was sadly a case of telling them to perhaps read a little more outside of class.
There were however more heart-warming moments, like the case of a student who started the year behind her peers and at one point quite reserved in class. Through hard work she managed to pass quite comfortably given the circumstances. She came on the day with her mother, looking quite nervous and unsure just how well she had done.
‘Well, how did we do?’ asked her mother, saying WE not SHE. Upon hearing her daughter had passed, it wasn’t a case of low mark, do better or what could she improve on. No. She hugged her daughter, kissed her on the head, and proceeded to hug me – catching me off guard. It was clear here this was a relationship of determined student and encouraging parent. If only there were more of these.