Parents’ evening

Perhaps I have written before about John, a friend who was a school teacher who was sat in the staff room of the school in which he taught, laboriously writing reports for the fifty or sixty students to whom he taught mathematics.

He was amazed when a colleague came in, picked up the pile of reports, and in fifteen minutes had finished the report writing.

Intrigued, John went over to the reports to see what had been written in so short a time. Against the subject, in a neat hand, John’s colleague had written the same two words on each report, “seems interested.”

Seems interested? Who could have argued with such a comment? The worst dullard in the class would have been pleased at receiving no negative comment, while the genius would have been spurred on to show even more interest.

Of course, the writer of the brief reports might have had a trickier time when it came to parents’ evening.

Parents’ evening was not a joyous prospect in our house, not that there were many to attend. I attended the Elmhurst Grammar School in Street for a year between 1972 and 1973, then, when it went comprehensive, I attended the new school for a term. By 1974, my asthma had deteriorated and I spent most of the year at home. At most, my father would have gone to two evenings.

The reports back included such words as “quiet,” and “satisfactory,” along with the inevitable “could do better.”

Sometimes I felt the teachers had been unfair, sometimes I felt they hadn’t a clue who I was. The teacher who wrote on my report that I had “made good progress in swimming” in the summer of 1973 would not have been able to describe me to my father, otherwise he would have known that I couldn’t swim (I would not be able to do so for another quarter of a century).

Parents’ evening have changed, the teacher now meets parents in their kitchen or living room. The five minute slots are conducted online and the levels of attendance are far higher. Gone is the prospect of passing an evening with only the parents who have the interest and motivation to come to the school building, instead the Microsoft Teams platform takes the evening into every home.

I wondered how the teacher who wrote “seems interested” several dozen times might have coped in this new dispensation. Perhaps he might have devised a one size fits all narrative to deliver to the successive faces that appeared on his laptop screen.


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