Parent-teacher meetings: the good, the bad and the novel

Even as a parent, there’s a vulnerability as you wait to hear what teacher has to say

I have rarely been more in demand. My diary is filled to the brim. Everyone wants a piece of me. It seems almost a pity to have to qualify these statements by adding that the reason for all this is that it’s parent-teacher meeting season and when you have as many school-going children as I do, the logistics reach nightmare levels.

I have clear memories of my own childhood and the fear surrounding those parent- teacher meetings. The thought that my mother might already have realised I was on the “excitable” side with a “tendency to talk far too much” never dawned on me, and so I dreaded her reaction when she was to be inevitably made aware of it. My own kids don’t seem to have these worries; their most pressing concern to date has been whether or not they can get a treat in the local shop afterwards, “as a reward”, such is their confidence about how it’s all going to go.

There’s a sense of stepping back in time when you walk inside a school building – a vulnerability as you wait to hear what teacher has to say. Maybe it’s that fear of judgment and a niggling sense of worry your parenting and lunch-making skills will be called into question. Or maybe it’s simply the tiny chair and the worry of how your now less-than-tiny behind will fit into it.

Sounds of relief

The more of these meetings I’ve attended, the more my expectations and experiences have changed. There are some I brace myself for more than others because, let’s face it, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And there are ones where audible sounds of relief can be heard as it’s confirmed that the Spider-man


moves from the enthusiastic superhero wannabe tested on his unsuspecting grandad last week have not been tried out in the classroom.

In the early years of parent- teacher meetings, both of us attended together, admiring and praising our children’s beautiful artwork outside the classroom while trying to decipher exactly what it was.

We’d nod along together, beaming as we heard the positives and progress that our children were making – and make a mental note of whose “fault” it was when it came to any suggestions of areas that might need attention, for discussions to continue outside the classroom. “See I told you that rat [toy] shouldn’t have been allowed in the school bag” may have been mentioned once or 12 times as I berated my hubby for providing what was gently described as a “source of distraction” by a teacher.

“God knows what’s been missed in class now,” I continued making a completely reasonable and in no way quantum leap to the assumption that my then six-year-old’s education had possibly been seriously compromised thanks to the provision of an alternative point of focus.

New departure

These days, because of our numbers, it’s often only the secondary school parent-teacher meetings that see both of us attend. The logistical challenge means that divide and conquer is the only option when it comes to covering the ground and number of teachers that need to be seen. But although our rookie status has long since worn off, this year saw a first – our Leaving Cert student was to attend her parent-teacher meeting with us.

It all seemed a little unusual to start with. Sitting down to begin, I half wondered if I was expected to lean closer to the teacher as he/she spoke, lest my daughter hear what they and I were saying. It soon became clear that this was not to be the case, as most of the discussions about where she currently was, and what needed to be done in advance of D-day, were directed to her. I was somewhat surplus to requirements, never an easy thing to accept, especially as a mum who finds it hard to cope with her children growing up – even if that is part of the deal.

Still, it probably gave the teachers a little insight into the usual aftermath discussions, which instead took place in front of them, as parents and daughters around the hall regarded each other with either an “I told you so” look or were visibly in agreement. I swear I saw looks of bemusement and amusement cross some of the teacher’s faces.

Almost 40 meetings (and counting) later, the trepidation remains the same because my hopes are high as I enter the classroom. I’m hoping they’re happy, that they treat others with kindness and respect and they’re trying their best.

I already know they’re a little on the talkative side.