It was our first parent-teacher conference at kindergarten. Equipped with all the information we could get our hands on (actually it was just the paranoid me — scurrying through all the resources on ParentMap and in other parenting sites), we entered our daughter’s classroom holding each other's hands. It wasn’t romantic in any way; it was just my way to ease stress, digging my nails into my husband’s wrist if I needed to.
As we headed in, my own elementary life flashed through my eyes. I remembered being scared and worried when my parents visited my class teachers over the years for the conference. Back then, it was once in a quarter, and always on the second Saturday of the last month of the quarter. The teachers shared the quarterly test results with parents during the conference, as proof of their observations of our academic progress. Amma would circle the dreaded day on the calendar.
I was a good student and did well in class, so I wasn’t particularly worried about what my teacher would say to my parents. I was more worried about what my parents would say to my teacher. I wasn’t all that helpful at home, and I fought a lot with my sister, so I was always anxious Amma would spill the beans, especially to my Hindi teacher. Ms Sharma was, well, let’s just call her ‘strict.’ Amma could use the opportunity to blackmail me into getting things done around the house, which under normal circumstances, I would never do.
If kids here are given the Santa carrot ‘Be a good kid if you want Santa to get you presents’, back home, it was ‘Be a good kid, if you don’t want me to tell your teacher about what you really do at home.’ It was very important for us to be in the good books of our teachers. We feared and adored our teachers at the same time. “They are the writers of your future,” my parents would insist. “You have to listen to them, honor them and respect them.”
It was very important for us to be in the good books of our teachers.
'They are the writers of your future,' my parents would insist. 'You have to listen to them, honor them and respect them.'
I called my mother before DD’s conference, to seek counsel. She has, after all, twice the number of kids I have.
“You just have to listen to what the teachers say,” Amma said. “They’ll tell you everything about DD. They spend so much time with her; they understand what her needs are.”
“And do I tell her what DD does at home?” I asked. “You know, like how you would share how we troubled you at home?”
Amma burst out laughing. “Oh no! Sweetheart. I never said anything about what you guys did at home. That was only to get you girls to do some stuff at home and more importantly stop the incessant fighting!”
Obviously, I couldn’t react to my mother’s scheming ways. I'm now a grown woman and I have to behave like one.
“Don’t argue with the teacher,” she said. “And don’t get too defensive. You know your daughter at home. She knows your daughter at school. The same kid could be completely different in different settings. Be patient and don’t react. But knowing DD, I don’t think you should have any problem. She’s a great kid — a lot like you.”
I smiled, until she added, “A lot more like Mapilai" (her son-in-law).
So armed with Amma’s guiding principles, I set forth into the classroom, hubby by my side, DD a few feet below eye level.
“Hello Mr. ans Mrs. Singh!” the teacher welcomed us.
It wasn’t so bad. DH was relieved he had a fully-functioning wrist, and DD was pleased I didn’t divulge any details about her spilling milk and dropping her scrambled eggs over it.
“She’s a good kid!” her teacher said.
“Thank you!” I smiled. “I just wish I weren’t so tensed for the meeting!”
“Huh?” The teacher didn’t understand me.
“She just says, that she wishes she weren’t so nervous for the meeting!” my smart cookie helped. “You don’t understand her that well because she has an Indian accent.” Then looking at me, my daughter added, “If you need to tell my teacher anything, just tell me. I’ll tell her in an American accent.”
“What if it’s something bad about you?” her dad asked.
“Then I won’t tell!” she said, matter-of-factly.
“I won’t get you in trouble with your teacher.” I kissed DD. When I saw the wide grin, I added, “I have other ways!”