Parents’ evening has the curious ability of turning well-balanced adults into nervous wrecks. Do our kids listen, have manners, have friends? Are they kind? Are they blessed with an uncanny ability to understand complex equations (forgetting that we can barely calculate small change)? We may be rational in all other areas of our lives, but our kids are our Achilles’ heel.
On the evening itself, we perch on miniature chairs, trying to understand rating scales, decode the euphemisms and remember our questions. Despite understanding the need for impartiality, we want the teachers to like our kids and to feel that they’re on our team. We want them to understand our child’s quirks (AKA their hidden genius) and to fan the flames of brilliance buried deep (perhaps very deep) within. We expect them to be the love-child of Mary Poppins and Robbin Williams from Dead Poets Society.
Reception teachers have the most unenviable task of all, having to induct not only the children into school-life, but their parents too. Every ten minutes they’re faced with a new set of parents who only really want to hear that their child is popular and resembles Einstein crossed with Mother Theresa. They may be the first to give us the reality-check that our kid’s amazing achievements are just ‘Expected’ for their age. Until now, relatives may have laughed at their jokes without punchlines and nodded intently to their baffling ramblings. Rather bizarrely we’re unprepared to hear that our children are human, just like us. Any variation on “brilliant” seems like a criticism and despite teachers’ efforts to avoid comparisons, the elephant in the room remains – “where does my child sit in the pecking-order?”.
We’ve also got the age-old problem that we can lead a horse to water, but we can’t make it drink. It’s the same with our kids. We can help them with their homework, go to science museums and allow them to run wild outdoors, but the desire to be rule-abiding and hard-working can only come from them. School is where they learn independence, to make friends and hopefully to think for themselves. There’ll be some slip-ups along the way, but we need to pace ourselves – it’s a long haul!
Having said all that, parents’ evening can also surprise and delight. As I hear so little about what my guys learn at school, seeing the contents of their trays is like the great reveal. This time, the following sentence caught my eye: “I live in a world of happiness”. Despite it being some work on suffix endings, seeing that written by my eldest still made me smile.