Parents' meetings bring out the inner pupil in you


SEASON of daffodils and parent teacher meetings. Two on the same day in different schools - and half days for the kids involved. Is this serendipity or an extra obstacle for beleaguered parents?

Teachers have made it clear that baby-sitting is a despised activity so who is going to babysit?

Eldest daughter is deep in the mysteries of college life, second daughter had plans for her "free afternoon". Am I interfering unduly with a young person's independence - shades of the last parents' association lecture? Oh go on, daughter says grudgingly. If you start philosophising you'll be even later than you usually are. And don't listen to Miss Y, she's completely off the wall.

Turn to wardrobe, strains of Harper Valley PTA in ears. No uniform for parents but discretion rules. Something middle class, middle of the road... "and dull", adds daughter. Remember good book. For every minute of teacher contact, five are spent in queue.

National school first. Five minute wait. Single teacher ensconced in principal's office. Is it always this tidy? I wonder. Youngest child developing according to Drumcondra norms. Admire his work, admire teacher's organisational powers. Depart, patting self and teacher on back.

Secondary meeting next. Arrive late. Sign roll, suppressing paranoia . . . Should I reveal my past as a teacher? It spares one the most patronising remarks, but more is expected of a teacher's child...

Am ushered into large hall with teachers laid out behind named desks. Parents mill around in the middle. Usual gender imbalance. Hello PT meeting, goodbye daddy? Though Leaving Cert meetings always sprout fathers.

Back in the dim and distant days before I threw away the chalk they did take place at night. People," were excited about them, thought they would change things.

Back to reality. Parents are lining up as for confession. It's important to come, but even more important not to linger, the summons said. Choose the shortest queue. Bless me teacher, for I am, X's mother. Pleasant child but could work harder. Palatable - that's why the queue was short. Survey a dozen mournful parents waiting on maths teacher. How, many of us receive our heaviest penances at maths? Slap down my innumerate prejudices and join a familiar face in the history queue. We've been meeting annually like this for more than a dozen years and both of us are showing our age.

Five teachers down, two to go. Chemistry teacher's queue has resorted to chairs. Is this parents voting with their feet? Or simply age? Tea arrives and time passes. Slowly. Chemistry teacher seems upset by way daughter knots - or fails to knot - school tie and wishes me to convey this concern to daughter. Is this a chemical matter I wonder?

Bump into year head while changing queues. He is being convoluted about absences and the seamless nature of school policy. Squirm at memory of having once hassled other parents on such matters. Reach final teacher's table. Hurrah he has absconded... Funny how school brings out the inner pupil in one...