At 2:45pm this afternoon an alarm went off in Microsoft Outlook on my work computer, and reminded me that I needed to race home soon to meet my other half, and attend our the first parents evening at the school our youngest attends. Woah – that’s was a sentence and a half.
While shutting down the myriad windows full of unintelligible gibberish on my computer (I’m a software developer), it struck me that anybody trying to make sense of this particular project would also need to be a management accountant. The code is filled with words such as “Full Time Equivalent”, “Effective Start Date”, “Salary Midpoint”, and “Indicative Cost” – all terms you might not typically associate with programming. And yet here I am, inventing a leviathan, and pretending I have half a clue what it will be used for. Maybe I’m a brilliant idiot savant.
After saving everything, and hitting the keyboard combination Microsoft Windows sometimes recognises correctly as “logout”, the heavens opened in spectacular fashion. I cycle to work, remember. I swore. People laughed.
While gathering my things together, pulling on the reflective jacket, and fiddling with the straps on my cycling helmet, I resigned myself to getting soaked through to my underwear while cycling home – but then something rather unexpected happened. The rain stopped – just like that. Like somebody turning a tap back off. It happened so suddenly I began to question if I might be starring in a “Truman Show” style movie – a spectacularly unsuccessful secret TV show that films a nerdy software developer as he sits in front of a computer all day, swearing profusely under his breath at his own stupidity.
Let’s just say I changed clothes when I got home. I also tidied up the trail of destruction throughout the house – no doubt caused by the group of teenage girls huddled in the junk room “doing homework”. For some reason I didn’t believe them for a moment. I did believe the cups, glasses, plates, and candy wrappers left all over the kitchen and lounge.
Half an hour later my other half came screeching to a halt outside our house in a scene not too dissimilar to the pitlane at Monaco. I tumbled from the front door looking surprisingly clean and tidy, and joined her for the journey to school.
You know… I was going to write about parents evening, but now I’m not so sure. There comes a time when children’s lives become their own – when their stories are their own to tell, not yours. I think this evening was one of those times. Sure, we sat in front of a collection of teachers, and heard all manner of nice things, but then so did everybody else in the room. It’s probably worth mentioning that I know quite a few teachers – and know the hell that parents evening is “from the other side”.
Think about it. You know your child pretty well. You know their character, their hangups, the things they do, the things they don’t do… Then think about your child’s teacher. They have perhaps 20 of your child to deal with. They had a different 20 last year, and a different 20 the year before that. Somehow they have to sit opposite you on parents evening and say all the same things they said to all the other parents – but perhaps in a slightly different order. It would drive me round the bend.
The only parallels I can draw are with a presentation I gave to an audience at a University last year. I arrived blind, and ended up delivering the same two hour presentation twice – to different audiences either side of lunchtime. One man fell asleep during the second presentation, and I didn’t really care any more.
I can’t imagine the conversations I might have if I was a school teacher on parents evening:
“Billy is doing great. Are you hungry? I’m hungry. Did I say he’s doing great?”
“Mary is such a lovely kid to teach. Oh look at the time – it’s gone dinner time, hasn’t it.”
I could go on…