I can’t quite believe it but I’ve finally done my last parents’ evening. ‘Done’ rather than ‘attended’, because it always seems like a chore, even though I’ve always been one of the lucky ones who has been blessed (so far, I’m still crossing my fingers) with hard-working and really rather lovely children. For some reason, parents’ evenings are always held on dark, grim, wintry nights, parking is a statutory nightmare and the other parents are rabid to get home and pretty shirty about delays – as I am myself, of course.
At the school the girls used to go to, no one took the slightest bit of notice of the little timetables the pupils would laboriously put together, with optimistic five-minute time slots and a maximum projected ordeal length of around one hour. Queues of bitching parents would rapidly form around the tables of the most garrulous, badly organised and discursive teachers. Unfortunately, one of the few male teachers was quite good looking and there was often a pile-up of eager mummies at his desk, keen to discuss their little dear’s progress in unusual depth. And, just when I would be wondering if I would ever be able to leave, the headmistress would silence everyone and make a rambling speech thanking each member of staff from the cleaners upwards.
This new school has been a massive improvement for three out of four of the parents’ evenings I’ve been to. Last night, for some reason, the system started to break down and I felt the familiar annoyance as we bunched around the table of the offending teacher. Luckily, when we finally sat down, he was charming and fulsome about the amazing talent of my adorable daughter. Quite right too.
It’s been a long, long string of evenings, from a Belgian maternelle school in Brussels when Child One was four (I almost had a car accident getting to this one on time, but made it to hear the very important news that Child One was doing well in singing Allez Croco with her classmates) to now, with Child Two poised like a World War One soldier about to go over the top into the final A level push.
The funniest comment ever was from the gym teacher at the disorganised school. I can’t think why I even spoke to her, as I still giggle over my own PE report, ‘Alice should learn to move more.’ But this lady, who taught both Child One and Two and obviously despaired of them both, told me that neither could catch a ball, so I should practice throwing one to them at home. I must have looked incredulous, so she told me earnestly that if I couldn’t afford to buy a ball, I could scrunch up newspaper and throw that at them instead. Needless to say they can both throw and catch balls perfectly if the mood takes them, but scrunched up newspaper doesn’t really work.
Then there was the chemistry teacher who rootled around under the desk for ages when I took my seat, and finally produced a photocopied sheet of mugshots of the entire class. He pushed it under my nose and said, ‘now, do you know which one of this lot is yours?’ Ah, the personal touch.
Parents’ evenings. I will miss them – in a way. They’ve been an opportunity to catch up with friends and to see a glimpse of the inner workings of the schools. Once the primary years are over, they are the only peek you will get inside the building where your child spends a huge chunk of their time. Mostly I’m just proud of my girls for making all my gripes about parents’ evenings very, very minor, and I shall treasure all the lovely things I’ve heard about them over the years.