5 reasons parent teacher interviews are just like speed dating.

Just like speed dating, parent teacher interviews mean you have to interact with a whole bunch of real-life strangers. And boy, is it awkward…

In the same way that speed dating is structured to allow people to get to know complete strangers efficiently, so too are the new Parent Teacher Interviews. Well perhaps none of this is particularly “new”, maybe it’s been like this for a decade but I’ve only been the parent of a highschooler for a couple of years now, so this feels to me like an unfamiliar and quite frankly, odd phenomenon.

I guess in one way it’s the most logistically effective way to be updated about your child’s progress. It doesn’t mean however that it’s not awkward and just like speed dating, performed publicly, at break neck speed and often, a little fruitlessly.

Let me set the scene for the uninitiated. Generally these parent-teacher interviews are held in large hall type surroundings. You have 5 minutes with each of your child’s teachers who will be sitting alone, at a small desk, awaiting your arrival. It’s pretty much a secondary education production line. However where speed dating and parent teacher interviews do tend to differ, is that there is absolutely no alcohol available at the latter.

The point of this exercise is to glean as much information from that person as humanly possible without looking crazy.

Which is exactly like Speed Dating.

Let me count the ways…

1. It’s awkward.

Urgh, the awkward silence. Or in my case, the awkward over-share. Firstly though, you stand around uncomfortably, just waiting to be granted your five allotted minutes together. When you eventually do get to plant yourself down opposite this person, you will fall into two camps. You’re either the one that inexplicably overcompensates for the pause in conversation and does not STFU (that’d be me) or the one that sits there blinking hard and hoping like hell that the other person will just take over.

2. There’s one you wish you could spend more time with.

You always get that one person who you crave to spend more time with. The one that when the buzzer goes off to indicate that time’s up, you wish you could stall time and incase yourself inside of a bubble, just the two of you. For me this year it was her French teacher. Sure, he wore glasses and a jacket with leather elbow patches and yes, had an incredibly sexy French accent but there was also another reason for my want to continue our conversation further; he told me that my daughter was one of the most gifted French students he’d ever come across. So yeah, I wanted to hear more about that. Possibly with a French accent.

3. You are forced to interact with actual human beings.

These days, there are a lot of us who prefer to do the majority of our living, entirely on line. As a result, usually, a quick email or text gets most of our needs met. Yet both of these situations we talk about today, find us in unavoidable face-to-face meetings with other human beings.

Bern with her daughter.

There you both sit. Warts and all. And this unfortunately had a literal meaning for me (think the Headmaster scene in Uncle Buck). Plus, there is no disguising your bruised looks. That look you get when you are told something unpleasant and your face gives you away. “So yeah, your daughter will not be, I can say without a shadow of doubt, the next Renoir or Picasso”. Oh. Cue crushed face.


4. There’s always one person who reminds you of someone you’re trying to erase from your memory.

“You’re daughter is going really well in maths!” This sentence is delivered by the overenthusiastic Maths’ teacher who oddly resembles Mr Seaver from Growing Pains. I’m so busy focusing on how he is the doppelgänger of Mr Seaver to realise that he’s actually complimenting my daughter on her maths abilities.  To be fair, after last years effort of an E+ I wasn’t really preparing myself for good news. He went on to further unnerve me by telling me that in fact, she is one of his best students. I walked away with the Growing Pains theme song in my head and a weird spring in my step.

5. There’s always a kooky one.

Next in line was the PE teacher. Fair to say my daughter isn’t mad keen on outdoor activities. She’s more of your brooding, ‘I will sit in my room and read poetry that makes me want to question the meaning of life’ kinda gal.

We sat down to talk to Mr PE Teacher and look, I have to admit, I was a tiny bit taken aback by the bolt cutters he head resting up against his table. This, believe it or not was not why I considered him kooky. No, see he spun his fancy laptop table around to both of us with a series of pictures displayed. Nothing weird. Just you know, some smiley faces and some dogs walking amongst cats etc.. TOTALLY normal. Then he asked her to pick the picture that best described how she felt about PE class. Huh? This was my moment to ask him “Right after you answer why you’ve got a set of bolt cutters resting against your leg”. He politely ignored me and carried on. We left none the wiser but apparently she’s happy (she picked the smiley face).

Afterwards, much like speed dating, I left a little bewildered. I did however leave knowing that my daughter’s teachers are very passionate about what they do. This is a public high school and I’ll be honest, all I can reference is my own public high school experience where there was a bomb threat called in at least every second week. There were few teachers back then who you would have described as passionate. Or even coherent.

These teachers however, seemed to actually like their job. And knew my child. I’m not saying every single one one of them struck a cord with me and no, they weren’t always complimentary but that is, I believe, how it should be. Life isn’t a series of compliments.

Speed Dating is much the same. I’m guessing you are going to come across the ones that resonate and the ones with the bolt cutters beside their chair. And you’ll figure it all out. Fairly quickly.

Is this how your child’s school conducts parent teacher interviews? Do you have any speed dating anecdotes?