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March 27, 2012

About the school thing: Turns out if you skip one of the events, you get to have a conference with the teacher about it.

There are several things I want my children to get from their education, and this teacher’s particular subject falls into the category of “Good. Potentially life-enriching. But after a certain point, something a lot of people are going to drop, more or less, so if you’re looking to instill passion, you’d better have some clever tricks up your sleeve. I will do my best to promote appropriate levels of compliance in class. Anything beyond that would require me to put less effort into something more important, and that’s not what’s best for my kid. So no.”

But I went to the conference, and it was like a bad date: In exchange for time I will never get back, I got material to entertain my friends. Much as I want to entertain my friends, I’m not sure it was a good trade.

Here are some proven ways to make me think you’re not worth listening to:

  • Bust out a scary-sounding clinical term to describe the youngest. Backtrack rapidly when you learn how old child is (something that you evidently could have looked up or asked his teacher about, given that you were able to find out that the middle child is in therapy). Bonus points if the thing you say the child is having trouble with is not, in fact, something the child is having trouble with.
  • Tell me what a great kid the eldest is. Assume, wrongly, that I do not have a stack of old report cards showing that you never actually had anything good to say about him when he was your student.
  • Tell me repeatedly that you want “to help your child succeed.” When pressed, make it clear that this means, “Make him seem happy and enthusiastic at all times in my class.”
  • Tell me what I should tell my middle child’s therapist to work on. Offer suggestions for what the therapist should tell my kid. Instruct me to report back.
  • Tell me, in a tone of surprise, “You really seem to know your kid!”
  • Describe a child whose parents both work outside the home as being “raised by the nanny.” I know these parents, and even if I didn’t, I’d be pretty suspicious of that assessment of anyone.
  • Tell me the kids my kid likes to play with are all on your troublemakers list. (So what’s your solution, exactly? Write off a bunch of eight-year-olds? Enlist a series of kids you do approve of to serve as my child’s therapy dogs?)
  • Ask me what you could do to encourage my kid. Act as though what I tell you is some of the craziest shit you ever heard.
  • Announce that we need to make it our goal to make my kid less stubborn. Not “To help him learn to be quicker to cooperate” or “To help him understand that sometimes you just have to do things regardless of whether you like them” or “To stop wasting energy being surly.” The kid is stubborn, which I think is a hard-wired trait. Let’s try to harness this power for good, or mute it when it’s not helping anyone.

I went to the conference wondering if I should just let the teacher talk, but “I want to help your child succeed” made me think, “Let’s have a conversation. Let’s collaborate.” The longer we talked, the more I realized that this was not a conversation, and there would be no collaboration. So once again, I’m on my own. And so is this particular teacher.


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