Parents' evening. Lots of them waiting. And I have a difficult one in front of me who seems to have no awareness of the frustrated queue behind him. Maybe I should give a quick nod of the head towards them to make him aware? But something tells me he wouldn't care. Even his wife and quiet son (who is as good as gold in class) look embarrassed to be sitting there so long.
It started off easily enough - "pleased to meet you", "your son's progress ..." "He's excellent in class ..." But then I brought up levels. The dreaded levels. What level the child is working at now and what level he should be working towards. That is when I was bombarded with more questions than I have ever had in teaching - and that includes at job interview. "Why is he at that level?" "When will he meet his target level?" "What set will he be in next year?" "Will what set he goes in reflect his target level or his current working level?" I tried my best to fend off each question, as I felt the beginnings of a headache form.
The conversation gradually became more and more abstract, with the words "levels", "targets" and "setting" bouncing back and forth between us. "Who is this guy?" I thought. Should I be making judgments about the fact that he has lost some teeth? At the back of my mind I thought about the possibility of him having been placed in the wrong set when he was at school and now he was out to "get" teachers. His son was in Year 7 - what would this parent be like by the time he was doing his GCSEs? When, at last, he begrudgingly moved off (probably after a kick under the table from his wife), I felt like lying down in a dark room rather than seeing the assembled hordes who were growing more impatient by the second.
The writer is a secondary English teacher.