What are you supposed to say, as a parent, at school parents evening? What should you not say?
Dilemmas like this go right over my head.
As any reader know, I have no courtesy and not much politeness strategy. I have, however, sat on the other side of the desk. As teacher, I have said things like, Tinkertop is a delight to have in the classroom! or Tinkertop is a proper little madam, but now I've met you, it all makes sense.
But tonight I am Parent! And as parents, we start off with Design and Technology.
Pause, while I recall the interviewing admission tutor, refusing to enter Shark for A-level on the grounds that she is home educated and therefore five years behind. (Grudge number 567, Volume XII, CP 25/2/1321/2.)
But Shark talked her way onto this course, and we learn she's looking at an A-grade, probably thanks to her oblique home ed perspective, so we can move on. No real problem either with Physics and Biology. I have been waiting for Maths. Where there is a big problem, and it's called The Maths Teacher.
Now what do you do, you parents? Because I cannot just sit there and shut up. At home we hear a constant complaint about Maths Teacher.
Shark's report is that they are disorganised, don't give any appearance that they're actually interested in maths, writes up stuff wrong on the board to be corrected by the class, dismisses student problems, and fails to answer questions with clarity. Shark is worried that, if she relies on Maths Teacher, any higher grade is under threat.
So that's more or less what I tell Maths Teacher. Then I ask how they are going to attend to organisation and pay attention to detail? By the end of five minutes I am tapping the desk pointedly asking for a different teaching approach in the class, with Dig wading in with questions like, What is the point of daughter coming to school?
I would just like to say, at this point, that I used to dread parents coming in like this. But unlike Maths Teacher (got defensive) I knew that I deserved a telling off.
Because, by the requirements of the day, I was dreadful, and a thoroughly useless teacher. My teaching fell far short of what was sanctioned. I was supposed to teach a National Curriculum approved anthology of poetry, so I locked it in a cupboard and instead put a broken umbrella on the floor with an old tin can and a crumpled newspaper, then assaulted everyone with metaphysics. But at least I had the self-awareness to know that the style of teaching I wanted to do was not the type of teaching that the Ofsted-approved world was moving towards. So I left.
But I do not expect Maths Teacher to change, despite us giving them an E grade. I don't expect them to suddenly find any passion in maths, either. They are one of those long-serving bodies who are ill-equipped for any other career, without much reflection on the job they do, and failing to see, or care, whether they are inspiring any child within a 50-mile radius. They are in it for the next 15 years to retirement. Even in my short teaching career I could spot them, and surely other parents can, too.
Meanwhile, Shark is planning a Maths self-teaching schedule at home.