What I hope to say...

As a teacher of middle and high school Language Arts, I've sat in on countless conferences with parents. Of course, none of these involved high-achieving, literature-loving students. That would be a wonderful, but pointless meeting. "Your kid is great! Keep up the good work at home! Now let's all go home!" Alas, the subjects of the typical parent-teacher conference is the child who causes a silent, secret celebration within your soul in those rare occasions when he's (it's almost always a male) absent.

I sat in on one such conference recently, and both parents were somewhat articulate, though excellent at avoiding the issue: since their child won't do any work in class, he sure-as-shit wouldn't do any outside, as in homework. Listening as I watched the clock on the wall tick away the time leading toward no solution, I grew increasingly aware that the parents were not really involved in their son's education. I've recently administered a basic reading test to their little angel, and this 7th grader reads proficiently on the 2nd grade level. He has a decent working oral vocabulary, but he can't write worth shit because he never reads. After more than three decades of teaching, this is something I can tell.

Those "poor" parents said that they tried everything, but were simply at their wits' ends. In two years (my retirement year), I hope to have the freedom and develop the guts to respond to such parents with these questions:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, I know it's a bit late now, but out of curiosity, did you read to him every night when he was a baby and even up to the 2nd or 3rd grade? No?

Did he witness you reading while the TV, smartphone, computer, and so on were turned off? No?

Did you take him to the library where you checked out books that interested you, and let him choose books in the children's room that interested him? No?

Rhetorical question here: Did you set aside some time when you read those library books as a family activity, and stop and comment on your book so that he felt encouraged to do the same? No?

Another pair of rhetorical questions: Did you refuse to get him his own computer until he was 10 years old (or possibly older), letting him do his computer-based schoolwork on your computer with you in the same room? And have you decided not to let him have a smartphone until he can buy his own? No?

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, if you had answered yes to those questions, we wouldn't be having this meeting would we? If you had answered yes to those questions, he would be doing well in all his classes because he would be exercising his innate curiosity about the world and universe around him.

You couldn't answer yes to any of those questions, yet you sit here and expect me to believe that you really care about your son's education? You couldn't answer yes to any of those questions and you don't expect me to be fucking pissed off to hell that your sperm and ovary produced yet another tax burden for me to fund?

(I can't wait until my retirement semester!)

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