Parent conferences are a part of being a teacher. As a teacher, I am stern and strict. I have anxiety, and specific procedures for student movement in the classroom are essential for maintaining my sanity. If I have a panic attack in class, I am not an effective teacher. Great fodder for a surreptitious YouTube video, maybe, but not effective.
Once discipline is established, I feel comfortable and have a great time with my students. As soon as they become accustomed to my sense of humor, we have a lot of laughs. Sometimes, parents object to what they see as my authoritarian practices or misinterpret my tone, and they ask for meetings.
I like to imagine myself as confident and fearless as Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men.
Here is a transcript of my fantasy meeting with imaginary parents.
Sir, we live in a world with ignorance and that ignorance needs to be guarded against by teachers with rules. Who’s going to do it? You? You, [angry parent’s openly embarrassed spouse]?
I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for last year’s English teacher and you curse my long list of classroom supplies. You have that luxury. You don’t know what I know. That the first time I call in a substitute, the students are going to take the caps off every glue stick on that cart. Those ballpoint pens? Spitball canons. My requirements, while grotesque (something we’ll study in our American Gothic unit) and incomprehensible to you, save minds.
You can’t handle the truth about public education because deep down in places you don’t talk about on the sidelines of soccer practice, you want me in that classroom. You need me in that classroom.
I use words like rigor, obedience, consequences. I use these words as the backbone of a classroom management program built to maximize class learning, minimize disruptions, and keep myself sane. You use them as accusation.
You may think I sound defensive, but I’m just astonished that I have to take the time to explain myself to a person who sees his children thrive in the environment I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said, “Thank you,” and gave me a Starbucks card.
I run my classroom the way I run my classroom. You want to come at me, roll the dice and take your chances. I eat lunch 100 feet away from 1800 adolescents trained to ignore me. So don’t think you can come in here, flash a sour face, and make me nervous.
Now, say “my taxes pay your salary,” and I will order a Code Red.