Home' Teacher : September 2009 Contents 66 TEACHER SEPTEMBER 2009
Okay, it's one of the worst kept secrets in
the world of education: teachers use euphe-
misms in lieu of the cold, hard truth when
reporting on student progress. It tends to
save your reputation from irreparable dam-
age when you're writing reports, and in
some cases might even save your nose dur-
ing a parent-teacher interview.
There are some bread-and-butter euphe-
misms that every teacher should master
sooner rather than later. 'John has well-
developed social skills,' for example, might
be a wiser way to phrase one's judgement
of John than your private and, let's hope
untranslated, view that even the Amazon
Basin has difficulty keeping up with the
oxygen demand of this motormouth of a
kid. Likewise, 'Angela is quiet in class and
could benefit from interacting more in class
discussions' is well understood among the
educational fraternity to mean, 'I don't
recall an Angela in class this year.'
Sometimes managing the name is the
easy bit. It's the other apparently essential
details that can escape us at the worst pos-
sible moments. I once spent a full 10 min-
utes in a parent-teacher interview in Hong
Kong, elaborating to Jackie's parents on
her academic achievements and outlining
various areas in which their daughter might
improve. At the end of the interview, Jackie
himself came bounding up and gave his par-
ents a warm embrace.
Ah, yes, Jackie. Of course.
The tremendous opportunity to couch
potentially confronting information in
code allows teachers to make statements
like, 'Akmed would do well to apply him-
self more to his homework,' when what is
intended is closer to, 'If Akmed were any
more casual in his effort, I fear he would
forget to breathe.'
Even parents of students with the most
hardcore behaviour problems can end
a parent-teacher interview without an
assault charge if you use a simple phrase
like, 'Eugene has made significant improve-
ments in moderating his behaviour this
term,' when reporting the observation that
actually Eugene has almost been successful
in refraining from stabbing other students
in class with compass points.
Once you've learned the full range of
bread-and-butter euphemisms, you're basi-
cally set, although there is one situation in
which highly-trained teachers really break
into a cold sweat: when they're confronted
by other parents who are also teachers.
Aside from wiping your sweating palms,
what can you do? The solution is as simple
as it might be disturbing to the uninitiated:
the only safe strategy when faced with the
parent who is a teacher at parent-teacher
is to lie. Blatantly, fluently and frequently.
If you admit that the student is playing up
in your class, your behaviour management
strategies will be questioned. If homework
completion appears to be an issue, then
perhaps the work set is not engaging. If,
God forbid, there should be a 'personality
problem' between you and the student, the
knowing look from the parent will reveal
that you obviously have a problem building
rapport with students!
Unless your judgement with the child of
another teacher can be upheld by a jury of
your peers, just let it slide. Lie and smile,
and hope that if the sucker who teaches the
child next year spills the beans on the little
terror that they don't end their career.
Heck, if they have a nice desk, though,
and you play your cards right, you might
get upgraded! T
This month's Last Word was writte n by
Mick Wilkinson, the Student Activities
Coordinator, Student Services, at Northside
Christian College, Brisbane, after making
signific ant improvements in moderating his
voc abulary in pare nt-teacher inter vie ws.
John, Angela, Jackie, Akmed and Eugene
are fictitious and any rese mblance to actual
students is entirely coincidental, so if you're
a teacher and have a son or daughter with
any of those n ames, please don't write in.
Photo by Jyn Meyer courtesy of stock.
The last word
WHETHER YOU'RE WRITING REPORTS OR CONDUCTING PARENT-
TEACHER INTERVIEWS, IT PAYS TO EMPLOY A FEW KIND EUPHEMISMS,
SAYS MICK WILKINSON.
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