Not too long ago, I heard about a parent-teacher conference that I wish I’d sat in on. The story goes that this parent-of-a-struggling-student kicked off the conference by explaining how he, the parent, would teach the class.
The first suggestion was that the teacher should make the class interesting. The second suggestion was that the teacher should show how the class material related to the students’ everyday lives. Both were brilliant ideas that had never ever occurred to this teacher in all his years of teaching. And yet the third took the take:
The teacher should explain how he wished he’d worked harder in school so that he didn’t have to become a teacher. That would inspire students to hit the books, pay attention in class, and perform well on assessments.
Upon hearing this story the first time, several barbed responses occurred to me. My favorite of the bunch was “Sir, I retired when I was 28. I teach because I love teaching children.” Why? Three reasons. First, both statements are technically correct, which is the best kind of correct. Second, “I teach because…” is a positive statement that hopefully will segue into a positive, productive discussion. Third, it makes the jerk a little more insecure about his own accomplishments in life, or lack thereof.
Actually, if I’d heard that third suggestion in person, my eyes would’ve bulged out, my jaw would’ve dropped, and I would’ve been too shocked and insulted to respond right way. I’m told that the teacher kept his composure, wisely let the comment slide, and went on with the conference, which was probably the most professional way to handle the affront.
While it is true that we want our students and our progeny to have better lives and careers than we had, there are probably better ways to articulate the thought.