What’s Really on Teachers’ Minds During Parent Conferences

Parent-Teacher conferences can be stressful for all parties involved. On one hand, you have the parent of a child that they are attempting to mold into a successful human being. On the other hand, you have teachers… who want the exact same thing. So why does everyone seem to dread these conferences? It could be that we end up saying and hearing the same things all… the… time. However, there are a few choice words we’d love to say, but can’t. For example…

1. “Your child’s backpack is a vortex into another dimension”


Can you even begin to comprehend how much paperwork we send home with students? Progress reports, flyers, notes, newsletters… the list goes on and on. Then we entrust these tiny humans to carry this information in their backpacks and deliver the messages to their parents. The success rate for this transaction is microscopic at best, mostly because the inside of most backpacks looks like a mini-landfill full of garbage and refuse from God-knows how long ago.

2. “In order to pass my class, children have to actually do work.”


Parents of failing students are routinely surprised when we break this information to them. They are even more surprised when we tell them their child hasn’t turned in any assignments in a month. Some are even shocked to find out that we hold children accountable for not doing their work.

3. “Spoiler alert: Everything your child tells you isn’t 100% truthful.”


Relying on children to accurately retell a story is like hoping your cat can figure out how to use the toilet by itself. It’s never going to happen. Children (and adults for that matter), hear what they want to hear and relay the version of the story that they want to tell. So it’s no surprise that parents come into these meetings with some misguided ideas about what really goes on in your classroom.

4. “Now I see where they get it from.”


Do you ever wonder how a child could behave a certain way, and then you meet the parents and it all makes sense? Children that are well-behaved and do their work tend to have parents who have their stuff together. The kids that haven’t been on task all year? Well let’s just say those apples don’t fall far from the tree.

5. “Have you even met your child?”


While some parents are keenly aware of who their child is and what their strengths and weaknesses are, there are some who seem to have no idea what their child is all about. You’ll start to mention the behavior issues you see in class, and ask how they behave at home. They go on to describe what sounds like an entirely different human being all together. Maybe they have an angelic twin you haven’t met yet?

6. “So nice to finally meet you… 6 months into the school year.”


Some parents are really on the ball. When you call, they answer. You ask for volunteers, they are the first ones to sign up. With others, you get the impression they may have never seen the inside of their child’s school, let alone know any of our names, or what we teach.

7. “Do you not own clocks in your house?”


The thing about school is that we’re built on routine. The day starts and ends at the exact same time, every single day, yet there are still kids who haven’t been present for 1st period all year. Look, we understand that schedules get messed up sometimes, but if you’re dropping your child off an hour late every day, maybe what you need is a whole new schedule.

8. “HELP!!!!!”


Some students are harder to deal with than others, and then there are those special cases that stick with you for a lifetime. The problem child that seems determined to blow up your classroom every single day. You have done everything you’re allowed to do to correct this kids behavior, and it’s not working. That’s when you hope the parent can step in and install some discipline of their own. Maybe? Well, I won’t hold my breath.


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David Rode

Dave is a middle school math teacher. He's also a musician, a community theater, dad to two amazing children, and he doesn't get a lot of sleep.

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