Well obviously someone can make this up because they did, but I definitely can’t make it up. I was browsing the internet (as I so often do) and low and behold this image popped up on my screen. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud (and email the picture to many of my friends—something I also do often) but then I got to thinking. Someone is making a business on this. Someone is selling parents a cover for the swing at the playground and alongside it a healthy helping of fear. This product is meant to assuage the fear in parents of the notoriously dangerous playground swing.
Parents are so worried about protecting their children that they would purchase an absurd product like a swing protector. We know parents love their children and want what is best for them, but doesn’t this seem extreme? It might begin with the swing—or actually the sister product The Shopping Cart Cover—but it quickly turns into ‘that horrible influence on my child’ or ‘the terrible teacher who didn’t push him.’ There are so many horrors out there I can’t even tell you. As we sit down with parents for parent teacher conferences we need to keep this ‘playground fear’ on our shoulder.
Some teachers think of parent teacher conferences as a time to showcase the growth of their students with the adult partners who love them so dearly. Others of us teachers dread these conferences, what unexpected horror is going to befall me this year? Which parents are going to leave thinking I am a horrible teacher? But we often forget to think about the parents.
Every parent brings something to the table during those conferences. Kids are about as personal as it gets. Every critique you have about a child is taken straight to the heart. Every improvement that is needed is one thing that a parent did ‘wrong.’ Parents see themselves in their children and you have the raw data and the professional opinion that can make or break their life’s work.
As you sit down in those tiny chairs (come on people, go get the big chairs that are in storage…) remember these vulnerable parents sitting with you. There is no formula that will guarantee a successful conference, but I believe that taking the perspective of every parent who walks in your room will certainly be a strong start. Not every parent is there to judge your teaching or your classroom or your grading scale. Every parent, however, loves his child to the point where he would do anything to protect her from the dangers of the world. Show these parents that you are indeed partners working together to help their child and allow them to resist putting up a barrier—a ridiculous swing cover if you will—between you and their most prized possession.