I will preface this by saying that ALL teachers of ALL ages have my undying respect and devotion. However, middle school teachers, who passionately invest in these middle grades, are truly cut from a different cloth. Spending five days a week with these kiddos whose brains haven’t caught up with their bodies and whose emotions roll in and out like the ocean’s tide sounds more than a little punitive to me. But they do it! And I will sing their praises all day long.
I am especially grateful for teachers because sometimes it feels like they spend more time with my kid than I do. They are my lifeline to her. Between school, extracurricular activities, and time with friends, I often find myself missing the abundance of time that we used to be able to spend together. Being an involved “middle school parent” is tough.
Your child may not want you around as often, and bringing cupcakes to school for your child’s birthday is a definite no. And I want to stay on top of my daughter’s grades, but I also want her to take ownership of her schoolwork without nagging. It’s a fine line.
That fine line is why I have a love/hate relationship with middle school conferences. I love them because I sincerely appreciate the teachers’ time to check in with me about my daughter’s progress. I hate them because let’s face it, they are both hilariously and painfully awkward. Admittedly, I am an introvert, so making small talk…not my thing. Bless you, if it IS your thing. We can be friends. You can do all the talking. And introducing myself over and over to seven teachers who won’t be able to pick me out of a lineup after this one night? Brutal.
I’m now in my second year of middle school conferences – and it struck me this year: a middle school conference is pretty much speed dating on behalf of your kid.
1. Middle school conferences are SUPER anxiety-provoking. For the parents.
I got increasingly nervous before leaving for conferences and decided to change clothes quickly. Perhaps my daughter’s teachers should consider me capable of leaving the house in something other than yoga pants and a messy bun. Wearing purple Ugg boots probably doesn’t scream “middle school parent” either, but it certainly doesn’t scream “hasn’t showered in two days”. It was at this moment that it occurred to me that I would have no idea what to wear to an ACTUAL blind date at this point in my life. I’m starting to wonder if I missed the memo on how to dress like a grown-up.
2. Teachers are lined up in rows of tables and chairs, just waiting to meet you.
The conference set-up is not quite a swanky hotel bar but definitely smells like some semblance of food in the middle school cafeteria. Rows of tables and chairs line the walls, with teachers smiling and holding stacks of papers. Like speed dating, you really only get 5-7 minutes with a teacher before the people behind you begin to sigh heavily and tap their feet. In some cases, 5-7 minutes is not nearly enough time. In other cases, I cannot possibly fill 5 whole minutes. I run out of questions after about 45 seconds and wonder what I should ask.
3. You take in a lot of information in a short period of time.
Conferences are ripe with information, some of which is helpful: “Your daughter is such a leader in class!” Awesome.
And some of which is not: “Your daughter sits by the football players.” Ummm…cool?
It can feel like a rapid-fire of facts that may or may not be relevant. And I can’t help but wonder if these teachers are just telling me what I want to hear. I really do want to know if my daughter’s constant chatter is disrupting your class, I promise.
4. I’m just hoping to make a connection.
I know that these teachers aren’t going to be my new best friends. With each teacher, though, I’m just hoping to make a connection. I’m hoping to reflect well on my daughter, and to ensure that each of her teachers truly has a good sense of who she is. I know that she is one of hundreds, but I want them to know that she is mine. Not only that, but I want to know who THEY are…these men and women who are pouring into my kids.
Believe it or not, I absolutely got what I came for this year. I made the awkward small talk with other parents and introduced myself over and over to my child’s teachers. And you know what? They really do have a good sense of who she is. She has “clicked” more with some than with others, of course. Nonetheless, I literally walked back to my car with happy tears in my eyes, confident that my daughter’s teachers see her and value her as an individual.
Showing up and staying involved with your kiddos is always worth it – no matter how old they get.