Twice a year they meet with us, many of us, in 20-minute increments, back to back to back to back and on and on it goes. In hallways we wait, we sit and we stand and we sit again; restless, we check our phones, we look at the walls and pretend to be fascinated by the artwork of children less talented than our own. Then we are ushered in, and the teachers, they say things, many, many things, but generally the same things. Again and again. Rinse. Repeat.
But what does it all mean? What's your child's teacher really trying to communicate about your darling [insert child's name here] as you both squat onto tiny blue plastic chairs, seats barely adequate for an American Girl doll let alone a human adult, and speak in code? A dance as old as time.
Fortunately, I have, just today, finally and once and for all, decoded the common phrases spoken by teachers at all elementary school parent-teacher conferences from coast to coast.
Here now are the nine most common phrases overheard at parent-teacher conferences, DECODED just for you.
WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: "She's got an independent spirit."
WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: "She doesn't follow a single instruction, like, ever, making the flask I keep hidden deep inside my desk among the stapler refills, glue sticks and paper clips 100 percent justified. Care for a breath mint? I've got lots."
WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: "She's got her own sense of style."
WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: "You are aware this school has a uniform policy, correct? If she wears the fedora/feather boa combo in here one more time, I'm sending her to the principal."
WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: "He clearly has a lot of support at home."
WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: "Most of the parents I deal with are total d-bags who don't give a hoot about their kids. So high five for not being another one of them."
WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS (ALTERNATIVE): "Let's not mince words, I know you are doing Johnny's homework. And your pretend-kindergarten handwriting sucks."
WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: "There's nothing she'd rather be doing than burying her nose in a book."
WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: "Listen, I get it, the majority of these kids are a total bore. I don't blame her for spending time with her library of books instead of her classmates during recess. Hell, I wish I could snuggle up with my Kindle instead of correcting their atrocious spelling again and again. But I can't, and it'd help both of us if she'd put Amelia Bedelia down and pay attention while I'm teaching."
WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: "He's having a hard time keeping his hands to himself lately."
WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: "I'm not saying he's definitely going to be spending time in a juvie hall within the decade, but some of the early warning signs are unavoidable. Maybe a chat about personal space is in order over dinner tonight, k?"
WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: "You're raising a terrific child."
WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: Exactly what she said, you are an amazing parent.
WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: "His mind sometimes wanders during class."
WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: "I unfortunately have to teach to the middle, so that the dullards in the classroom don't get left behind. Your bright son has every right to be bored out of his mind. I'm sorry. Write to your senator."
WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: "She has no weak subject."
WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: "She doesn't show a tremendous aptitude for anything. She's going to make a fantastic cashier someday."
WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: "Your son doesn't always have the most nutritious lunches and snacks to eat in school."
WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: "Lunchables? Really? Every day? Are you seriously too lazy to spend the 25 seconds required to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? And cool it with the doughnuts in the morning. The math teacher has begun using your son to demonstrate circumference."
Mysteries solved! Now you know exactly how to decode your next parent-teacher conference.