Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Feature: The Parent-Teacher Conference

I have not been giving this blog its due, mostly because I'm maxed out. Until the book is written, that's where most of my creative and stenographic skills are going. So here I am, chained to my desk all summer, hacking away at my book and watch my 11/1 deadline creep closer, and closer, and closer....

Oh. Sorry. I got lost in a dark cloud of panic for a moment.

But I miss writing here, so I've decided to go ahead and implement a plan I've had on the back burner for a while now, an parent-teacher advice column called....drumroll....The Parent-Teacher Conference.

In this shiny, new feature, I will offer honest and direct parent-teacher advice for all of your parent-teacher needs. All the stuff you want to ask your kids' teacher, but don't dare, out of fear of sounding like an idiot, pissing the teacher off, or coming off like a crazy helicopter parent.

This is going to be fun. Like Dan Savage but with fewer sex toys.

I'm actually thinking about trying this feature out as an audio or video podcast, so after I nail down the rough draft of my book, change out of my official author pajamas, and have some time to play around with the tech, I might just try that. In the meantime, send me your questions! Use that form right there -------> over on the right-hand side of the page, or email me at Identities will be kept secret to avoid total humiliation (your humiliation, that is, mine is always up for grabs) and I promise not to take off points for spelling. I will, however, clean up the language and grammar for clarity's sake.

Today's question comes from a mom who cornered me in a television station green room, anxious about her child's first day of school. She asked the question verbally, but to get you guys used to the format of The Parent Teacher Conference, I will alter her question a bit. Here goes! Introducing The Parent-Teacher Conference!

Dear Mrs. Lahey,  
Today is my daughter's first day of preschool, and I am really nervous. The teachers at her old school were so great and would drop us emails to let us know our kids were doing okay at school. I had not heard anything from her new teacher by lunchtime, so I managed to get the teacher's cell phone number from a friend of mine and texted the teacher to ask if everything was going okay at school. Was that okay?
Green Room Mom 

Dear Green Room Mom,  
I hate to break it to you, but you've been tagged. This teacher has, in all likelihood, put you on her "problem parent" list - at least for now. It's fixable, and I will get to that in a minute, but first, let me clarify where you went wrong.  
It's great to be in contact with your kids' teachers, but make sure that communication is on the teacher's terms, especially at first. I assume the school gave you a contact number, and that's the one you should use if you need to get a message to the teacher. And remember the golden rule of school: no news is good news. 
You mentioned that you got the teacher's cell phone number from a friend and not from the teacher, and this is the part that makes me cringe. If a parent tracked down my cell phone number, I'd immediately assume that parent is going to be trouble. It's a little stalker-ish, and until that parent gave me reason to think otherwise, I'd keep my interactions with that parent to a minimum. Here's the unintended consequence of your text: the teacher is going to be less likely to respond to your communications in the future. The parents who only contact me when it's really important are the ones I get back to right away. The ones who email constantly, call me at home, and leave multiple voice mails are the ones I avoid interacting with unless it's absolutely necessary.  
You know the story of the boy who cried wolf? Yeah. That. 
But here's how to fix it. When you pick up your daughter, smile, apologize for sending the text, and sheepishly admit to simply being a little too nervous on the first day. An "I'm sorry" and a genine smile whitewashes over a lot of rookie mistakes. Unless there's an emergency, stay out of that teacher's hair for a while, and she'll forget about your first-day error. 

Good luck to your daughter in her new school!

1 comment:

  1. From a preschool teacher's perspective: I think you're underestimating the level of empathy a teacher is (should be) prepared to extend on a parent on their very young child's first day. This is understandable first-day stuff for parents of small children, not something worthy of any kind of mental blacklist. It's another thing altogether if a pattern develops, but really, it's not a huge deal.