My worst parents have appeared many times over the years at parents' evening. Their offspring is intelligent, hard-working and highly motivated, mature and often original in their approach to English study. But these factors are largely ignored by Mr and Mrs Could-do-More.
Take, for example, Helen at last month's Year 10 evening. Helen has completed four pieces of coursework, each achieving an A*. She has won a school poetry prize and submitts her work to competitions. Her in-role speaking and listening assignment is one of the wittiest things I have ever seen in a classroom. When seeking an interpretation about a character or narrative device, I will call upon her in class discussion because her explanation will be more articulate and insightful than mine. Yet she remains polite and unassuming. In short, she is a pleasure to teach. I explain this to the couple, noticing that they are desperate to interrupt. Are these tributes not good enough?
Absolutely not. "Is she writing in appropriate depth and detail?" "I noticed that she had misspelled 'antithetic parallelism' in her last essay - do you think she has a problem?" "I'm not sure that she is spending enough time on homework; I certainly put in more than three hours a day when I was her age." "I believe that another boy in the class nearly achieved the same score as her on that last assignment; what is going wrong?" and, finally, "What more could she be doing?"
I scratch my head. Sleeping longer? Seeing her mates? Texting? Watching television? Spending time away from her overbearing parents? Heaven forbid: relaxing? I'm not sure that these are the answers they want.
The writer is an English teacher working in West Sussex. Send your worst parent stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.