I had parent-teacher conferences tonight. Five hours of chatting with parents about their kids in ten minute blocks. It isn't always easy to sum up everything you'd like to accomplish with a student in a ten minute time span, but it does make you focus on those points you believe to be most important.
I always find it interesting to get a glimpse of another aspect of a student's life in the form the parent. Sometimes I think 'Man I'd like to be a kid in that family. Their parents really seem to have it all together.' Then you meet a parent and you think, this kid's life must suck. Who would want to go home to that? I always like the parents who spend more time talking about their own academic achievements than their kid's. It's all I can do to keep from saying, "Excuse me, but I thought we were here to talk about your kid." One lady I met tonight had cheap drugstore false eye lashes on. They were so huge that I felt my head going up and down in a full sweeping motion everytime she blinked. The six pounds of lipstick also was somewhat distracting. I'm not exactly sure what that has to do with how she raises her kid, but it is somehow informative. How would you like to go home to a mom who's body weight is fifty-percent plastic eye lash?
The one thing that never ceases to amaze me is that more and more, parents are looking to me for advice on how to raise their child. I had a dad tonight who's kid is doing fairly well in school. She's a little chatty. What 8th grader isn't? But then he tells me about all the problems they have at home with her. The poor guy is clearly seeking answers. Of course, I had none for him, other than to say I would watch for signs of depression, etc. at school. Sometimes I even get parents who will litterally say "What should I do?" How do I answer that? I am able to offer thoughts on how to improve academic performance, even on how to get kids into good study habits. But when a parent asks me how to discipline their child, what am I supposed to say? "Well Mr. Jones, if Jane was my child, I'd beat her with a wet leather strap." I don't even have kids of my own yet. How am I supposed to know the family dynamic? Man, it's hard sometimes.
Still, parent-teacher conferences give me a chance to see a little backstory. Sometimes I meet a parent and I'm like 'Oh, so that's why this kid hates the world!' or 'Wow. No wonder this kid never does homework. He's too busy raising his two younger brothers for his parents.'
More and more I am expected to be not only a teacher, but also a surrogate parent, a psychologist, a neurologist, a behavior expert, pediatrician, counselor, and babysitter. Don't get me wrong, I love my job. I wouldn't do anything else. But sometimes I wonder what goes on in the minds of parents. Sometimes I want to ask them "What is it exactly you want me to accomplish with your child?" Of course, the ones that can answer that question aren't the ones who need the help. It's everyone else. It's just that the 'everyone else' category seems to be growing at an alarming rate.