Parents’ evenings are weird. On one side of the table you have the parents, keen to seem clued-up and supportive but a teeny bit stressed, possibly wrestling with younger, bored children or sweating profusely after a dash across town from work. On the other side are the teachers, exhausted after eight hours of class control facing another two hours of trying to string together coherent sentences with just a plastic cup of tepid tea to keep them going.
“From a teacher’s point of view parents’ evenings are really difficult. You can have up to 30 appointments and are often put under pressure to keep to timings (to avoid throwing other teachers’ appointments out). You’re exhausted, sometimes despite your best efforts you can’t remember a child’s name out of context and school uniform (it sounds bad, but honestly when you teach 200+ children every week it does happen). Parents can be aggressive, confrontational, non-committal or simply there because they feel they ‘have to’ be there. And some, of course, are lovely, supportive - usually the ones who have lovely kids, perhaps there’s a connection.” Gillian
But while we agree that parents’ evenings is no one’s idea of a great night out, there are a few teacher types you’ll come across - and, in some cases, wish you hadn’t.
1. The Spreadsheet Queen
Eye contact is not this teacher’s speciality, not when she can put all her concentration into poring over her bible of each child’s scores. You find yourself gazing in fascination as she oh-so-slowly moves her ruler and finger down and down the grids before announcing a stream of numbers at you. And all you want to know is: does she get your child, is he working to the best of his ability and is he behaving?
2. The Jargon Lover
Very close to The Spreadsheet Queen - you can imagine those lunchtime spreadsheet chats - this teacher is master of teach-speak. The only problem is we, the parents, make for a befuddled audience. If you thought management speak like ‘reaching out’ and ‘out of the box’ was teeth-clenchingly irritating, wait until you have to hear about your five-year-old child’s ‘learning objectives’, ‘targets’ and ‘success criteria’.
“It infuriates me when teachers speak in total education-speak jargon. We spend most of our 10 minute slot saying, ‘Sorry, what does that mean? What does that stand for?’” Judy
3. Mr Furious
He positively bristles with rage. Is it being at a parents’ evening or the irritation of teaching your child? He rattles through his prepared speech, then ends with an emphatic, “Right, good”. If you dare to ask a question, he sighs, stares at the ceiling and says something like “Well, yes, that would be your opinion.” After a few occasions of meeting Mr Furious, you decide not to bother - and then you realise that’s his cunning plan. He’s the only teacher with no queue to see him, who can scuttle off early to do something much more interesting instead.
“The art teacher on options evening called me and son over to her table to list all the reasons he shouldn’t take GCSE art. It was a 10-minute dressing down/talent assassination. Poor kid never had any intention of taking art!” Rachel
“The maths teacher at my Year 10 son’s evening told ME off for my phone ringing during the slot. Jack’s stepdad had arrived at the wrong entrance and got himself lost navigating across the football field. I had to direct him.” Jayne
4. Miss Nice But Dim
She’s very nice, she’s just a bit uninspiring. So that’s why your child’s homework is marked with handwriting with hearts above the letter I and quite a few spelling mistakes. She tends to get her words and meanings a bit tangled up too. She’s been teaching Year Ones for five years.
“My son’s teacher told me he was ‘very deceiving’. It turned out she meant he was intelligent but he couldn’t be arsed to say much in class. After 10 minutes with her I could see why. She was also a Creationist. My son loves dinosaurs and is obsessed by the Big Bang Theory.” John
“This year we had the teacher who spoke entirely in made-up verbs taken from the animal kingdom. Apparently she encourages the children ‘to magpie’ words from other books. Meanwhile during maths she is ‘butterflying around’ different groups. All of this delivered in a deadpan ‘I dare you to laugh’ tone. My husband and I spent the rest of the evening thinking of other animal names that could be used as verbs - fair to say we were ‘cowed’ by the experience.” Rosie
5. The Australian
So that’s why your child’s every sentence goes up at the end in an always quizzical way.
Antipodeans staff our primary schools in huge numbers and (sweeping generalisation here, sorry), they tend to be bright, energetic and enjoy spending time with kids. The only downside is when they decide they’d had enough of the bean-counting stats obsession and disappear back Down Under.
“I have a terrible habit of imitating people’s speech patterns. My daughter had this fabulous Australian teacher but at parents’ evening I was mortified because I thought she thought I was taking the piss - not helped by my husband banging my foot, then banging his knee on the teeny tiny table.” Cheryl
6. The Teacher Who’s Half Your Age
You may already be feeling a bit of a fraud, not grown-up enough to be attending parents’ evening. And then you meet the teacher, and realise you’ve been kidding yourself. You are SOOOO old. The next stage after the shock of realising you’re a whole generation older than the person teaching your child, is developing a full-blown crush.
7. The Teacher Who Doesn’t Have A Clue Who Your Child Is
Even when they’re sitting next to you. It happens a lot at secondary school, especially if your child is not particularly tall, short, spotty, hairy or annoying. This is when the spreadsheet comes in handy for sorting out 200+ kids - or maybe not. You’re left wondering why you bothered - as, no doubt, are they when they could be sitting at home relaxing.
8. The Teacher Whose Name You’ve Forgotten And Whose Subject You Can’t Remember
Sorry, but this happens a lot too. In the queue system of secondary school parents’ evening, you have a list of names and subjects and you have a child hissing at you not to embarrass them in any way. (This includes wearing a coat/not wearing a coat, being ‘too chatty’ to teachers, asking ‘stupid’ questions, talking to their friends or friends’ parents or god forbid, laughing.) Maths, science and English queues stretch round the sports hall, so suddenly your child grabs you and says “Quick, Sir’s free” and you’re plonked in front of a stranger with no idea WHO he is.
“I was rushed onto the next teacher on the ‘speed dating’ type parents evening. I hadn’t had time to ask my son which subject this teacher taught and spent the whole 10 minutes trying to work it out. I’d got past the point where it was probably acceptable to ask. It became a game with my carefully phrased, open questions revealing very little. Five seconds before the slot ended I worked it out - history! I nearly burst out laughing!” Juliet