Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Dispatch From Parent-Teacher Night

Here I sit during a lull in the flow of parents to my little card table in the gym. The first hour is over. It’s actually about twenty past five, which is nearly halfway through the night. I have seen eighteen parents—actually, that is not true. It’s more like twenty plus, but the first and at least one other parent/parents neglected to sign in. Of those who did sign in (18), they are equally divided among my three classes.

About two minutes ago, a DECA student (I have no idea what DECA stands for) brought each of the teacher’s a Ziploc baggie with two cookies in it. That was nice, but who can eat when you’re this tense. Yes, tense. Even after twenty positive interactions, I still dread the next one. Not because it might be bad, which it might be, but because it is an interaction…with a stranger…I hate those.

However, here I sit, proud of myself for being “strong”(just after I wrote that word, a parent with a name very similar to that word came to visit me at my little card table in the gym—if you will it, Dude, it is no dream). I was going to make a self-deprecating comment about strength being something a bit more impressive than talking to strangers, especially when there are about 120 other people at their own little card tables in the gym doing the same thing. However, my inner monologue all day, all afternoon, and even now is: “Flee! Flee! Flee!” But, I am not doing that. It is some kind of strength, just not a kind one might be commended for.

In addition to being given cookies (oh, by the way, in the midst of this sentence, a second wave of parents descended—I’m now up to 31, and it’s 6:20), they fed us pizza and pork BBQ for supper. It was not sitting well an hour ago, but it is currently behaving itself.

So, to sum up the festivities so far, I have had about 33 conferences, all of them positive, and my anxiety is waning. However, I remember last year’s “Grandma Assault,” when a student and her mother and grandmother read me up and down about how I was conducting my class, and basically blaming my seating arrangements for the student’s poor performance (after which I switched her seating arrangement, and she did just as poorly—somehow, it seemed to me, the fact that she didn’t hand in her compositions had a greater effect on her grade than where she placed her buttocks). That happened in the closing moments of that term’s conferences. I surely hope that does not happen again. We had another visit a moment ago (up to 34). It’s now 6:36. Twenty four minutes and then I can let go of this “waiting for the other shoe to drop” feeling in my gut.

One more visitor—35. Now it’s 6:41 (they ask us to keep our conferences to 3-5 minutes). The fellow conferencing with the teacher to my right looks like a former business associate of my father’s, right down to the bad toupee and the dyed moustache. That guy (and this guy) reminds me of my high school college algebra teacher. He was not a toupee wearing guy. I have to give him that. But, his Irish red-brown hair and his orange moustache that dangled under his bulbous whiskey-sotted nose, matched with a slight speech impediment, always put me in mind of a defrocked priest. We used to write limericks about his “shining bald pate.” Maybe it was his name, which was about as Irish Catholic as you can get. I never liked him. He was also the JV baseball coach. He and the varsity baseball coach, another bulbous-nosed, moustached fellow (who reminded of a defrocked priest for other, creepier reasons), made my life a roller coaster of struggle and disappointment, in math and on the diamond. They invited me to try out for baseball each year after my freshman year…and they eventually cut me every year. Cruel? Maybe. Maybe they hoped I had improved over each summer…let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, eh?

Why am I writing about this? I guess, since this is autobiographical, in the moment, automatic-type writing, anything is fair game. This is back story, another snapshot in the photo album of my life.

Another visitor—36. It is now 6:55, and the gym is still the site of quite a few parents waiting to conference. I sure hope they make an announcement soon, so that people know that we need to go promptly at 7:00. I got here at 6:30 this morning. That’s a 12 ½ hour day. I get paid for 7 ½, and I’ll never get compensated for that extra five hours.

It is now 6:57. It looks like I am going to make it. I want to detail every last ounce of this conference, so I will write it out until 7. To my left, one of my colleagues is still in conference. It is 6:59. To my right, my colleague is putting away his laptop and getting ready to roll. It is 7:00. Wait for it.


Over the intercom: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. This concludes parent-teacher conferences….”

As I am packing up my papers to go, a parent introduces herself to me. I have already talked to her husband, but she has a question about her son. I don’t add her to my total, since her husband has signed in already. I answer her questions as helpfully as I can, secretly wishing I could say, “Hey, I know these five minutes don’t seem like much to you, but I’m about spent. Can you email me about this tomorrow?”

It is 7:06. I climb the stairs out of the gym. I climb the stairs to the second floor. I grab my bag, eat one of my cookies, and head for the parking lot. It is 7:11.


La Fashionista said...

That really *was* a tense post, chock full of unpleasant experiences. Yikes. I could feel myself getting progressively more on edge with each minute. I'm glad you ultimately made it through your extremely long day unscathed.

I would have loved to have given you a dispatch of my internal reactions to a division-wide meeting this morning. Oy vey.



comoprozac said...

I don't know that I've ever read live blogging during parent-teacher conferences. Nice.

See you two this weekend.

Ooh, we could "live blog" the weekend from our two perspectives. They would only intersect during the hour or two you and Monkey visit.