What REALLY goes down at parent teacher interviews. You'll laugh
It's the last week of term, and for a lot of us that means spending five short minutes perching in tiny chairs in our children's classrooms and finding out whether they've been naughty or nice. The kids. The chairs are always naughty, they're definitely not designed for adults.
So here's the challenge: get all the information you need about your child's progress, what to work on, how to help them and who their friends are (and a biscuit, if you're lucky) in the space of five minutes. One minute will be spent on niceties: "Hello, parent I see twice a year, it's so good of you to come, thank you, won't you sit down, oh no I couldn't!" Then you have one minute of finding out what the kids have been doing all semester: making lion masks, counting by fives, running with scissors. Then you have two minutes to ask every question you can think of (and you will have forgotten them all by now) before another minute of further goodbye niceties.
Generally, you'll find out the most important thing right at the end. "Yes Mrs Anna, your child is very clever and she gets most of the answers right. She's polite and she contributes well in class. Well, that's about all we've got time for BY THE WAY SHE SOMETIMES STEALS PENCILS."
In the remaining ten seconds, you blink to make your brain process this information more efficiently, and then you're out the door to stand in the cold and it isn't until you're picking up pizza on the way home that you think, "Damn, I really should have asked her a bit more about that." But then you realise - it's not a conversation, it's ammunition. It's a secret bullet for later.
I remember as a child pacing the house while my parents were at parent teacher interviews. "Oh God!" I would think. "Mrs Rhodes is going to tell mum about all the detentions I've had for wagging class to watch the interschool boys' athletics carnivals! I'm going to PRISON!" Little did I know that Mrs Rhodes and my mother probably sat politely (and uncomfortably), shook hands and promised to see each other again the following semester, without really exchanging very much information at all until "BY THE WAY SHE KEEPS SMOKING CIGARETTES DOWN THE ROAD AT LUNCHTIME". Ammunition.
On the whole, the parent teacher interview seems to be as much about scaring the child into being better at things as it is actually allowing for conversation between parent and teacher. The exchange of information is limited and barely covers the details of whether the child turns up for school regularly. But that same child is waiting, waiting, waiting for the moment the parent returns with the solemn face and the disheartened stoop. "Oh no! They told her about the time I pulled down Alex's pants during PE!"
Maybe they did. But they didn't have a conversation about it. It's a stealth weapon, the parent teacher interview. It's not what's said, it's what's implied, what could have been said, the myriad dreadful things they probably talked about. Suddenly the child is gripped by fear and compelled to do better next semester.
The parent, for their part, never mentions it. And that is the true art of the parent teacher interview.