No one in the staffroom even pretended to feel relaxed. Parents' evening always ended with at least one of us crying in the toilets. I was teaching English as a foreign language in a school in a very up-market part of Rome. It seemed that everyone wanted their children to learn English. Courses were expensive and parents expected results.
"Matteo's dad is here for you," the secretary told me. Matteo stood out in my class of unfeasibly confident, good-looking and well-dressed 16-year-olds. They were clearly there under sufferance and would much prefer to be playing tennis or lounging round one of the private swimming pools that littered the area.
Matteo was different. Effortlessly popular, he was polite, good-natured, modest and as keen as mustard. English fascinated him. His linguistic ability was uncanny.
I felt sure that only a very special person could have raised a lovely boy like Matteo. His father tuned out to be a distinguished-looking man with a self-possessed - aloof, even - manner. Never mind, Matteo had been a little quiet at first, too. I launched into my report. I sang Matteo's praises. I gave examples of his extraordinary prowess with language, how he perceived patterns, his command of idiom, his understanding of grammar, his near-perfect pronunciation.
Matteo's dad took all this very coolly. I was a bit disappointed. "Matteo has told me he'd like to be an English teacher," I said. "I think he'd be good at it." This provoked a reaction, but not the one I was hoping for. Surprise, then disdain, appeared on his face. He said: "An English teacher? I hope my son would aspire to something better than that."
The writer is a former TEFL teacher from Sutherland.