x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Enjoying the lessons behind parents' night

Parents' evenings are great for parent-child bonding, maintains our youthful correspondent, what with their shared distaste for educators.

There is something immensely satisfying about watching two of the teenage world's sworn enemies clash. Parents' evenings at school may not seem like something to particularly look forward to, but it is surprising how parents often decide that their teen is not a moody, worthless waste of space after all, when faced with pessimistic teachers whose only opinion of their precious child is that they are, well, moody, worthless wastes of space.

It makes a pleasant change to see mums and dads fuming at someone else, even defending you in some rare moments. If only that frame of mind could last for more than a day. As her mother animatedly chatted with a science teacher, "Kara" was sinking lower and lower into the chair. Waiting for my turn, I gazed at her with mild interest, waiting for when she would fall off her chair and provide a little excitement to the dull evening.

"Mr Green" was murmuring mechanically, glasses perched on the end of his bulbous nose: "She's a bright girl, though she could certainly work better in groups, and I would like to see her try more-" Sometimes I think teachers learn a couple of lines and repeat them in different orders to every parent and hope no one compares notes. It was fascinating to see Kara's mum at this stage. She was growing progressively redder, though Mr Green was taking no notice, ploughing on, his mouth mumbling away while his eyelids drooped sleepily. "Perhaps we could work on her-"

"That's enough!" Kara's mum exclaimed sharply. Mr Green's eyes flew open and his head jerked up. On the whole, he seemed astonished to find someone sitting in front of him. "How dare you say Kara isn't a good team worker? I'm her mother, I know my daughter, and she's much better at doing practicals than you'll ever be!" With these mighty words, Kara's mum swept out majestically, her daughter wearing a mortified expression, but no doubt thrilled at having coaxed her mother to her side.

Mr Green was blearily staring after them, shocked, more than anything, at the fact that Kara's mum had actually registered a word, more than a word, in fact, of what he had said and repeated it back perfectly. Half term was greeted with the usual dread on the part of students and parents steeling themselves for the worst. It is profoundly irritating how teachers always begin with a cheery "So-how-are-you-finding-geography or music or whatever my subject happens to be?" The only safe answer to this is a wary "OK". Enthuse about how much you love it and they start with the raised eyebrows and the lecture about how you don't seem to display that sort of attitude in class.

I imagine an honest "I hate every bit of class with a vengeance and I wish you could be deported to Tibet because you are always sending me off to sleep with your horrid monotonous droning like a giant fly" would not invite a pleased response either. And then we go on to: "She's doing very well, but -" "But" is not good. "But" is not good at all. It is a pity parents are almost as good at deciphering teacher-speak as we aged and experienced teens. To say "'George' has a regrettably lower than usual attention span" means George refuses to listen to a word I say and spends his time flicking spit wads at me. "'Jaki' is a charming young lady, although I would appreciate it if her enthusiasm for being well turned out was carried forward to her lessons" denotes that lectures on the Renaissance are the ideal time for Jaki to experiment with the newest shade of mascara and her pocket mirror. "'Charlie's' method of solving his maths problems is certainly very creative" can only mean that although Charlie's methods will never yield the correct answers to the problems, the artistic doodles in the margins more than suffice.

The Games teacher informed my parents that she was sure that I had plenty of potential. Mum puffed herself out proudly. Dad beamed. "Of course," she continued, in a rather hushed voice, "it must be hard on the poor angel, she's so frail." "You mean she's a delicate little creature?" Mum smiled. "But she's all right at physical education, isn't she?" The teacher considered. "It would have been easier for me to tell if she'd turned up for any of the lessons, but she can't help it, I'm sure, with her health so-" her voice trailed off. Mum's own health didn't look too wonderful at that point, because she'd turned an alluring purple.

This was, I assumed, my cue to run away and stay out of sight until Mum convinced herself that her darling would never forge a note. So I did. Parents' evenings are great for parent-child bonding with our shared distaste for educators, but there is a time and place for everything, and this was not a situation in which to linger. Lavanya Malhotra is a 14-year-old student from Abu Dhabi.