Parents Say the Darndest Things, Too! [ An Unexpected Conference]

Conferences are supposed to be this warm and fuzzy time where you talk to parents about their students, celebrate their successes, discuss areas for growth, and go over the activities and progress made since the first day of school…right? Well, in an ideal world. Conferences aren’t always easy, but today I had a conference experience that really left me speechless.

As a student teacher (and co-teacher, as my cooperating teacher introduced me from the start of the school year) I’ve been front and center in conferences, introducing myself, talking to parents directly, and essentially leading the discussion as if I was the head teacher! It’s been wonderful, and I’ve gained so much knowledge and experience communicating with parents!

Tonight, however, I had a very unusual experience.

A mother came in, gave me a once over, and asked (to no one in particular, rather she looked at the wall behind us) “So how long are here for?”

“Until Friday,” I said, assuming she was addressing me. I half-frowned to express my bittersweet feelings in leaving so soon.

“Well, good,” the mother said, looking right at me, “I have to say…the consensus is…the students don’t really like you.”

——Dramatic pause as I attempt gather myself and restrain from laughing/freaking out/crying——

My cooperating teacher grips the edge of her desk, “Miss Donnelly has done an excellent job with the students.” I can literally see the steam rising from her ears.

“Well..I’ve just heard…” the mother trails off, “You’re just not really fun.”

It takes all my energy not to ask her to repeat herself. I’m not fun? What would you call the Modern Day Scarlet Letter Activity, the Forest Scene Story, the Intro Activity? I bite my tongue.

“Well,” I say, smiling politely, “I’m sure the students didn’t think I was fun when I assigned the Anne Bradstreet Poem Paper. Mrs. Stanton and I both felt that the students did poorly on their group presentations, so I’m sure the students weren’t happy with me when I assigned an additional assignment over their poems.”

The mother nodded. Then she started discussing how we, as teachers, need to be more strict with students and prepare them for group projects, presentations, and college–I couldn’t agree more.

I listen, all the while wondering how I can be ‘not fun’ yet need to be more strict? (I’m still in the dark about this one).

As the conference came to a close, I thanked the mother for her time and politely escorted her out, smile on my face and my head held high. That wasn’t a conversation I expected. In fact, knowing the mother’s child, I doubt those words even came out of that student’s mouth. I’m not sure what brought about the mother’s statement or why someone (or even the student would feel so negatively towards me), but I decided to shake it off.

That moment was a teacher light bulb moment–I wasn’t always going to be loved. I wasn’t always going to be appreciated for the work I’ve done in and out of the classroom–and that’s okay.

Over the last few weeks I’ve had incredible growth and I’m proud of where I’ve come and the teacher I am and will be. Though I’m bummed about that conference, I know that my teaching style and my personality won’t please everyone, but that doesn’t mean I’m not or that I won’t be an excellent teacher.

As the conferences came to a close, I reflected on the night and on my past six weeks–I might not be the best teacher in the world, but I’m a good one. And no matter the conference, I’ll keep pushing to be the best I can every single day, with a big smile on my face! 🙂

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