Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Push Back at Parents

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Push Back at Parents

Article excerpt

The gym is packed. I take a sip of my rough, powdered coffee and reflect that I (usually) enjoy parents' evening. You can find yourself forgiving a student once you've met their parents.

Of course, it tends to be the good students and their proud fathers and mothers who come, and it's a pleasure to praise from the heart those who deserve it. But the brave students who accompany their parents when they know their misdeeds will be raked over can at least be congratulated for turning up.

The Palmers are moving towards my desk. Their son, Callum, is a wonder, producing perfect copperplate maths every time. Mr Palmer takes a seat after shaking my hand. He looks successful, thrusting, businesslike. Mrs Palmer sits beside him, bright and vivacious, her bulletproof social skills already on display. They have that pushy feel.

"Callum, why don't you get a seat from over there?" I suggest. For all his brilliance, he's a diffident lad.

"No, that's OK, he can perch by my shoulder," says Mrs Palmer. "Can't you, love?"

Callum looks awkward as he leans against his mother. I plough on.

"So, where to start?" I say gamely, smiling at Callum and then at his parents. I trot out superlatives and the parents nod. They've heard it all before; it's simply a question of whether I can outdo the legions of teachers who've lauded Callum's work. They watch me intently and I falter.

"Does this fit with your perspective?" I ask hopefully. "Does Callum talk about maths at home?"

Mr and Mrs Palmer pause and exchange a glance. Callum shifts his weight from one foot to the other. …

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