10 things teachers say – and what they actually mean

Toby and Isaac school uniform

Another October, another parents’ evening.

I’ll admit that these don’t hold much fear for us these days. Both Isaac and Toby received achievement awards at the end of the last school year, so we’re pretty relaxed on that front. Sure enough, both boys’ teachers had glowing reports about their academic progress, with Isaac – who’s not yet eight – apparently having the spelling ability expected of a 12Β½-year-old. (I think that means he’s proficient in text-speak or something like that.)

Without wishing to sound blasΓ© about it, the two most interesting things about parents’ evening for me are:

  1. Can I get through the whole of a 10-minute-meeting while perching on a tiny child’s chair without it breaking underneath me? (I weigh 16Β½ stone and have a bad history with bar stools, so it’s a genuine concern.)
  2. Translating what teachers say into what they really mean.

Let me explain. While Isaac’s comments were pretty unambiguous – when the first word a teacher says to you is “wow”, you know you’re on to a winner – Toby, despite receiving generally positive comments, was also described as “a bit stubborn”, which is teacher code for “stomps his foot a lot when he doesn’t get his own way” or what in our household is known as ‘situation normal’.

I’ve written about other examples of teacher code in a previous post about parents’ evenings but, with tongue firmly inserted in cheek, here are ten more I’ve picked up over the years. (I’ve used male pronouns only for convenience):

  1. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.” (“Boy, have I got a lot of things about your devil-spawn child that I’ve been saving up to talk to you about.”)
  2. “He’s comfortable in his own company, isn’t he?” (“He’s an anti-social git.”)
  3. “He can find it difficult to make friends.” (“All the other children hate him.”)
  4. “He tends to form very close friendships, doesn’t he?” (“Another child’s parents have threatened to take out a restraining order if he ever comes within five metres of their child again.”)
  5. “He would benefit from a more consistent approach to his personal hygiene.” (“Didn’t you ever teach him to wipe his bottom?”)
  6. “He can be quite competitive, can’t he?” (“He cries when he loses and runs around chanting ‘na-na-na-na-naaah’ when he wins.”)
  7. “He needs to take a little more care with his spelling.” (“He’s illiterate.”)
  8. “We think he’s well suited to academic pursuits.” (“He can’t throw, can’t catch and can’t kick, and he has about as much chance of becoming the next David Beckham or Usain Bolt as I have of being Prime Minister.”)
  9. “Ah, I see where he gets it from.” (“So it’s your fault he has all these bad habits.”)
  10. “He’s a free-spirited soul, isn’t he?” (“Just one time, I wish the little sod would actually listen to anything I say.”)

Someone really ought to provide parents with a dictionary, shouldn’t they?

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