Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Parent Teacher Meeting

I was half an hour early for the Parent Teacher Meeting of my five-year old, and even after going through his Progress Report and all the class-work and tests had more than enough time to eavesdrop on the conversations the other parents were having with the teacher and their children.

“Is this how you brush your teeth?”, demanded a mother of her son. “One hand should be in your mouth, you stupid boy, not sticking out like this. Do you brush your teeth with your hands like this?”
“How dare you give my daughter a ‘B’ in Maths?”, argued another. “She’s got 16 out of 20 in all her tests. She should get an A for it.”
“My grandson always spells all the words correctly at home. If he is making mistakes in class, it is because you pronounce words differently. She knows all the words.” The lady was so agitated, she could barely sit still during the entire conversation.
“My child always topped in class in her previous school. Are you sure you are giving her enough attention?”

I was almost ashamed at myself for not having any such grouses with the teacher. Her remarks, I thought, described my son exactly as I know him. And while I wasn’t happy with the Bs he’d got in Mathematics and Computers, I knew I would have graded him similarly had I been asked to do so.
Maybe I should just up and leave. I couldn’t bring myself to bargain with the teacher over my son’s grades, and yet that seemed to be what was required of me as a parent. I spent a few minutes trying to psyche myself into becoming a parent ambitious about her son’g grades, but the whole exercise seemed utterly futile – did the grades that my son received in the first half term of Grade 1 really matter in the larger scheme of things? Would be he required to submit those grades when he applied to Universities ten years down the line, and did I really want him to apply to Universities that may require him to do so?
I was clearly a misfit among all those competitive parents, but I knew I could not be otherwise.

“I have to tell you how much my son loves his school”, I told the teacher even as I was easing myself into the seat. “Of all the four classes he has been in, I’ve never seen him as happy ever before.”
“You don’t know how happy you have made me”, my son’s teacher said. “I was having a really bad day until now. But you have made me feel so good.”
“The credit is all yours”, I replied. “I can see how much my son has grown since coming here. And he couldn’t have done that unless you encouraged him.”
We spoke about this and that. About the areas where I had seen an improvement in my son, and the areas where he needed reinforcing. I shared my concerns about his short attention span and she assured me it was fine for his age. I came away feeling happy, because I knew exactly how my son was doing and where he should be going.

“It is so refreshing to have a parent like you”, she told me as I was leaving. “You aren’t over ambitious the way other parents are, and you don’t push your child like they do.”

She would never know how competitive I used to be. About how during the fist year or two I used to obsess if he did not attain every milestone in the shortest possible time. But then I realized that both my sons were unique individuals with their own special talents. They will not excel in everything they do, but neither should they be expected to.

And I wish more parents realize that before they inflict irreversible damage on their kids.


dipali said...

I used to dread PTA meetings for the sheer bad manners and pushiness of most parents, whether I was in the role of teacher or parent.
The welfare of the child in question seems to be the least of their concerns.
I wonder where respect for teachers by parents has vanished. A little teacherly mystique used to help the kids too.

Rayna M. said...

Precisely. The parents not only think they know best, they think teachers know nothing. Can't parents realise that while they may know their kids well, it is the teacher who knows lots of other kids in the same age group, and so is in a position to compare.
For instance, I used to think my son had a problem with his attention span, but when I mentioned it to the teacher, she told me that it was not unique to my kid - others in the class had the same issue.
If you don't listen to the expert, why even have one? Just homeschool.

BTW - didn't know you were a teacher.

dipali said...

A long time ago! I started by teaching in a college,and ended up teaching nursery kids and some primary classes. Teaching nursery kids was probably the greatest challenge as a teacher, as well as being great fun. My youngest kid was in my class, and took great pleasure in calling me "Miss" in school!

Rayna M. said...

Quite a mature kid you have, dipali.
My Mum used to teach in the same school as I studied in, and I never as much as acknowledged her presense. Had she had to teach me, I would have thrown a fit I am sure.

ritu said...

I know parents are getting very competitive,but do they speak to the teachers like that? I am really surprised.

rk said...

I seen parents haggle with teachers for a few more marks as though they were buying vegetables at the mandi!!....If we dont respect the teachers, then how can we expect the kids to respect them. They are in the position because they know what they are doing...else, all of us would be teachers, right?. Have we alwasy stood first in the class and excelled in everything?...we haven't turned out to be so bad, have we??

I have a son who is hyper-active...not just the class teacher...anyone and everyone tells me things about him when i go to the school. Everyone, frm the Principal to the peon, knows him by name!!

I am not ashamed of it...nor am i upset with his grades...I know his concepts are the grades dont matter much. Do u remember how much you scored in all the subjects when you were in class V??!!

Rayna M. said...

@ rk - totally agree with you. Either you acknowledge that the teacher knows best, or you do something about it. But haggling over marks is something I just cannot understand. I can understand making your opinion felt if the teacher is handling your kid 'wrong', but not with grading.
The people in your son's school - do they say good things about him, or bad? Asking because I don't see any reason why the peon should be talking to you at all, unless he has something nice to say.

@ritu - believe it or not, but in Bombay they do.

Mr Underwriter said...

Good on ya Nuts! I enjoyed reading this. It is a matter of idle speculation to wonder how someone who regularly brought up the rear end of his class as far as academics are concerned will react in times to come if his offspring carries on the legacy ;) The only positive affirmation that comes to mind here is how much poker my parents must have played with their frayed nerves watching my trials and tribulations at school when a large voice must have been screaming in their head to place me in solitary confinement if I was ever to get in the grades and make something of myself......

Rayna M. said...

Hey Mangesh. I guess the choice is easier for me to make than for most people, because I was one of those kids who was really pushed when I was a kid (my mother was the kind who would yell at me for losing a mark if I got 99/100 in a subject). Personal experience has taught me that coming first in class means nothing, or close to nothing, in the grander scheme of things.

And what is it with the really grim sounding name?

rk said...

Whether they say good things or bad things is not so important....I strongly feel if my son is not your student and has not harmed anyone then you should not be complaining at all!! He is plain naughty..harmlessly naughty. Just because they have kids who spend all the time surfing the net or being a couch potato...they cant tolerate active kids. Then the prob lies with them, right? If your child hasn't fallen off his cycle, hasn't ever climed a tree, hasn't chased butterflies and brought home worms(!!), hasn't gone out of his way helping old neighbours by watering their plants or otherwise, hasn't fed his extra tiffin to the stray dog or tried to touch a cow and imitated a squirrel eating a corn...then, sorry! are losing out something very important in life.

Rayna M. said...

@rk - I think I like your kid already. He is a real kid, not the kind of people that pass off as kids these days. My kids are similar, and I get a lot of 'feedback' on how they have been 'naughty', but I just totally ignore it. But then I can afford to ignore it, because I also have the school bus conductor telling me 'aapka baccha bahut masti karta hai' with a big smile.
Just ignore all those people. Please. Your son is a trooper, and that is all that matters.

Ravikala said...

Thanks..I know Pranav is lot like your kids...and yes, I get to hear the same thing frm the conductors. and also, he is the only kid in the bus who gives chocolates to the bus driver, conductor and the school watchman on his birthday!!...:-)....

Rayna M. said...

In that case, you have brought him up well. I personally feel that compassion is far more important than anything else. A lot of stuff can be learnt later, but not respect and love for your fellow human beings and for animals.


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