The Parent-Teacher Conference

Here we go. Judgment Day. It all comes down to this.

On Monday we had our first parent-teacher conference at Will’s preschool. And if you think it’s more than a little odd and disconcerting to have a parent-teacher conference for a 2.5-year-old, you’re not alone. When I first saw the sign-up sheet I did a double take. But being new to the school and not wanting to seem like an inexperienced rube of a first-time parent, I dutifully signed up for a time to sit down with Miss Heather, our son’s teacher, and acted like it was no big deal.

But I was panicked on the inside. And the anxiety bubbling to the surface was nothing short of an impending volcanic eruption.

The rational part of my brain knows Will is only 2.5 years old. I know even though they’re calling it a “parent-teacher conference,” at this age there really can’t be too much to discuss. After all, what’s the worst they could say? Will doesn’t eat all of his lunch? He’s not quiet during story time? He eats too much paste during arts and crafts? He’s just a little kid.

Yet there I was before the meeting, stressing the fuck out.

I pictured Miss Heather telling us he doesn’t get along well with others. That he has no social skills. I worried about hearing that Will spends his days carving the heads off of dolls and chanting methodically in the corner. After all, surely these conferences are documented. Whatever atrocities Will has committed will no doubt be recorded on his permanent record and be forwarded to the advanced recruiters for all the Ivy League schools. Because this is serious shit. Right??

The whole experience also rocketed me straight back to the 6th grade and had me reliving my own parent-teacher night from 20 years ago. I was in Mr. Silvia’s math class and for the first time in my life I was struggling. That is to say, I wasn’t getting an “A” in a subject. And I was distraught. Things had come so easily for me up until that point and my parents were used to seeing a cavalcade of straight As on my report card. But middle school math came out of nowhere and made me its bitch. And the thought of my parents finding out what was happening was making my physically sick.

Fast forward to present day and that vomitous feeling returned, but this time I found myself on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Turns out I’m an idiot and all my fretting was needless.

Miss Heather said Will is ridiculously advanced for his age, acclimating well to his new school and — most important — getting along well with his classmates. Which is something he had big trouble with in the past. Soon he’ll be transitioning to the preschool part of the school and the curriculum will get a little more intense. But it sounds like he’ll be able to handle it just fine.

I always swore I wasn’t going to be one of those overbearing parents who makes a huge deal out of things like parent-teacher conferences. But walking into a situation in which your kid — and by extension you, as parents — will be judged and graded, is nerve-racking as hell. I’m not sure if Miss Heather could tell how tightly wound I was during the meeting, but I’ve realized going forward I need to relax and take it all in stride.

I was so uptight as a kid about my grades I’d have mini nervous breakdowns once every couple of months. My goal as a parent is to find that middle ground where I stress the importance of hard work and good grades, without sending Will careening over the edge of anxiety.

Easier said than done.

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12 thoughts on “The Parent-Teacher Conference

  1. I promise that sitting on the other side of that table can be JUST as stressful at times! Not knowing the parents’ expectations and hoping that they don’t think you are screwing up their children can make a teacher crazy even in Kindergarten.

  2. I know the stress you refer to. I want so bad for my daughter(In a pre-K class) to be the greatest student ever, but I cant put that kind of pressure on her. There is no way she could tolerate that from me. Sounds like you have taken the right approach.

  3. You’re not an idiot. Really? It’s called a Parent-Teacher conference? I think you’re bang on questioning that and for feeling stress. The term is so associated with the formal school system, report cards, evaluations and judgments that no wonder you were crapping your pants. Why not just invite a parent in for a coffee? Why, at this age, does it have to be so formalized?

  4. Hmm…. You know I had the same problem with Mr. Silvia’s 6th grade math-all A’s & B’s until then. I am beginning to believe he was the problem, not us! Yes, that year still haunts me.

  5. Kendra: I’m with you. I used to hang signs in my room that said “I hate Mr. Silvia” so I’m definitely blaming him.

    Although perhaps my problems stemmed from being a sweet and innocent boy of 11 who was corrupted by an older woman in a YMCA supply closet! ;-)

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  7. Glad to hear he is doing well- a good school and close communication with parents/teachers is so important:) Congrats on a wonderful kid:) I’m glad things are going your way for once. Hope it kust keeps getting better.

    You’re not alone in the whole nervous and worried thing either. I feel the same way. It’s as if your kid is a DIRECT reflection of you as a person and yet it also brings back weird and uncomfortable feelings of dissappointment and failures. I still get that way before parent teacher conferences even after 3 years of wonderful reports. It has, though, gotten a tiny bit easier and less nerve wracking than before.

    Kudos.

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