The Night Formerly Known As Parents’ Evening
30 years ago, September 1986 a revolution started in classrooms, led by 14/15 year olds. This was no Punk ethic, New Romantics had cried their eyeliner away and chances were if you had a beard you were a teacher – not a graphic designer. GCSE Electronics Multiple Choice Question.
In September 1986, inspired by General Noriega and the stormin’ Norman Shwarzkopf, the then Home Secretary was Keith Joseph. He was a man whose caricature was less scary than reality. He killed off O’Levels and unleashed GCSEs ready for 1988 (a very bad year for football).
Didsbury Son is now in the full throes of teendom. He’s still my lovely blondini, only the blonde is now expensively applied and the adoration is squeezed in between bouts of predictable disdain, disinterest and mutual exasperation.
Parents Evenings used to be straightforward. They went out. You panicked and prepared your excuses whilst tidying your room in the hope of clemency. They came back. They unfolded a depressing tale of being sussed staring out of the window, drawing, mooching, skiving and generally being as disappointing as most teenage boys are at school.
You could then go into school full of venom for all, which fed beautifully into teen angst. ** (apart from your one ally in either art, cookery or RE who had said what a lovely and misunderstood boy you were and you were always attentive in lessons. That is to say the one teacher you fancied and fixated upon).
This was easy. Careers advice was nil, students had no fees and could sign on and signing on itself was a career choice.
Now it’s all wrong. The children come to talk with you. The night starts with a scare video based on the teenage brain, internet trolls and league tables. There is tea, coffee and biscuits and the tone is bizarre convention.
Every conversation begins with handshakes and “So… Didsbury Son/Freya/Archie, how do you think it’s going?” This savage form of open questioning throws the over-sugared teens into a panic. They know the answer, we know the answer and the teacher hoping I won’t speak to them knows the answer. What follows is an excruciating dance. The teachers either gush inappropriately or hide their frustration behind anodyne comments. The teens promise to do whatever is needed; and their homework. It is an honest, heartfelt pledge that evaporates into the ether and is as likely to be done as the NHS is to get £350m a day from the government.
We troop home. Didsbury Son is relieved. With the adrenaline dripping away he reverts to teen-type and instagrams his friends as their versions of the night revert to folklore.
I get home for the last 2 minutes of Europa League football and fall into a deep sleep, safe in the knowledge that the status quo is restored and positive that the biscuits weren’t as good as last year.