Friday, January 23, 2009

Student-led conferences

I'm sure there's some educational theory out there that claims that student-led conferences are a good idea. I say that theory is bunk. Today was the third day this week that the kids didn't have school. Monday was Martin Luther King Day; Tuesday was a snow day (more on that in another post); today was a teacher workday, which for the middle school translated into parents being guilted into going in and listening to their child run through a script about what they've learned thus far in the year and how they are doing. I know I'm grumpy, but I regularly check online to see the grades, my child comes home crowing with glee when he's done well, and I go ahead and pull teeth, I mean tease out information about his day to day life at school so this whole conference was unneccesary.

As a matter of fact, I'd forgotten about it until I happened to glance at the calendar on the fridge so W. and I popped out of the house completely haphazardly and last minute. I only had time to take a quick shower so my hair was still wet. W. was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, arguing that he wasn't going to be out in the cold very long. OK, not gonna fight that battle (and I was pleased to note that the silly list of parent tips for dealing with a pre-adolescent that we were given at conferences applauded me for not making a small issue a larger one--so apparently I'm to be okay with frostbite, as long as he gets to wear whatever weather inappropriate clothes he's chosen. Cool. Good to know.). At any rate, we got out of the house with some time to spare.

Back to the actual conference. For starters, W. told me half of what he was supposed to tell me in the car on the way to school. I have no problem with this but I could have saved the gas if we could have done this just as easily at the kitchen table (and given my childrens' tendencies to flapping lips, I suspect we definitely could have). We get to school and W. happily greets everyone he sees who he knows. Less than half greet him in return. This is an unintentional aspect to the conference I could have done without. I know he's socially immature (a less kind term comes to mind but I'll refrain) but I don't really want to see it in action because I might be a slacker mother of huge proportions, but this stuff still makes my heart hurt.

And I'd just witnessed the neighborhood boys' showdown at my front door yesterday when a child who has been less than kind to W. lately came, with back-up, to accuse my son of hiding Z.'s gun in the bushes. Now given that Z. and S. have recently mocked W. for being a baby (he does cry at the drop of a hat but I think being beaned in the head with something hard and sharp warrants crying, even in the most stiff upper lipped of boys), have tossed nerf guns and those squishy dart/bullets of W.'s into the bushes where they seem lost for good, and have been the ones to throw things at W., resulting in the mockable crying, I wasn't having much sympathy if W. had in fact gotten one back at them. (Note that I have never claimed to be a good parent.) But, and I tend to believe my kid on this since he's a terrible liar, he claims that he didn't do it. He admits he asked if he could see the gun but when he was told no, he said he came home. But three angry boys stood at my door certain that W. or T. or T.'s friend M. had done this and they certainly wanted blood for it. (None was given and they went away, probably to ambush my sensitive soul some other day.) So I already knew that W. isn't the most popular kid around before we walked into school. Thankfully he was so wound up about the conference, he didn't seem to notice.

The conference itself took all of 10 minutes and told me exactly nothing I didn't already know. Even worse, as I sat next to W. listening to him go through his class notebooks with me, I kept getting a whiff of the most appalling body odor. Yup. W. He threw clothes on without showering and he sat next to me like pigpen in his own cloud of fug. Very distracting. And I admit that my award as mother of the year is probably being revoked (again) because I leaned into him several times to ask about bathing, deodorant, and general hygiene. Dogged boy that he is, he shook of my questioning and raced through the conference at full speed so he could get home to the tv and computer. And for this they had no school? Next year I'll get two student-led conferences unless the teachers and administrators see the uselessness of them before then. Yeah, I'm not real hopeful either. Oh the joy!

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