I did not have many parent-teacher conferences when I was teaching high school. For the most part, if parents had a serious issue that they wanted to discuss between themselves, their child, the counselor, the IB coordinator, and myself THEN they would schedule a conference. Similarly, I did not call for conferences except in similar circumstances. Conferences were a big deal- this is my frame of reference.
My mother did a very good job teaching me as a young adult about conflict resolution skills. They came in incredibly handy when I had to deal with some parent-teacher conferences where the environment was hostile or there had been some kind of painful misunderstanding.
For example, I employed all my best conflict resolution skills during a conference with a senior who had plagiarized off the internet. It was a 'big deal' because of the program she was enrolled in and it carried certain ramifications; therefore, it was handled very carefully by myself and administration. The evidence against her was irrefutable because she had copied & pasted from an internet source. During the meeting with the principal, the IB coordinator, myself, and the counselor, her parents berated me. They called me unqualified. They tried to blame me. They actually got angry with me for 'calling her a cheater', which was one point I wanted to share. I answered them, "No, I have not called your daughter anything. I have her assignment here, and here is the website from which she pulled her information. They are identical. She is not the author of the website; therefore, she submitted work that was not her own."
I remember my superiors commending me for handling a difficult situation with a parent with a calm, unemotional, logical response. She of course was guilty, but the personal attacks against me were unfounded. I was so thankful for my mother's advice on how to view a situation, without name calling or blame shifting or other unhelpful emotional responses. To correctly diffuse a high emotion situation, one must step back from it & explain it as simply as possible. In that case, she was a cheater- but it would NOT have helped for me to call her that. It would have escalated an already uncomfortable situation.
My son has not had any parent teacher conferences yet. I am already understanding more&more what it feels like to have to come into a meeting as a stranger to a room full of professionals who hold power over your child & his school experience. I have met with our school's principal already, yes, already to discuss some simple ideas & concerns I was having for my son. I truly do not desire to be a mother who 'fixes' all the problems for my son, because I know he will learn valuable lessons if I do not. I do desire to have a voice & be involved in helping his experience in school be wonderful, if possible.
Stay tuned... Can a school experience be wonderful; is that possible? My expectations as a parent could be totally misguided, and I will explore that tomorrow. Hopefully, I can continue to employ my conflict-resolution skills as the parent on behalf of my son to navigate these school waters. I think as hard as it was to be a teacher in the parent-teacher conference, it will be harder for me to be the parent.