A Father’s Journal: A study guide for surviving Fairfield school conferences for parents
We recently went to our daughter’s high school's open house and were quite impressed. Growing up, my parents hated to go to our school conferences. My mom in particular despised them. My parents had nine children and, with the exception of my sister Ann, who was a good student, most of our conferences were what my dad called “atrocious.”
My mother and dad would split up and each would attend a few. Afterwards, they would compare notes and try not to cry. They would often trade conferences with each other in a desperate attempt to get a complimentary conference. Let’s just say my brothers Mike and John were the worst of mom's during a particular round of conferences, which is not a stretch, as both of those boys were atrocious students. For the next semester, my mom could trade those two with dad right up until the trading deadline (i.e., getting out of the car at the school). Hypothetically, she would trade those hooligans for let’s say Maureen and me, who dad last conference had claimed were "good.” Well, as luck would have it, that was our bad semester, or maybe two. My mother hated those trips to the school. However, both of my parents went to Ann’s.
Throughout our two daughters' time in the Fairfield school system, the conferences have been very good, with the possible exception of the one conference where there was a brand-new teacher who confused my wife and I with other parents and gave us a pretty bad review. The teacher referred to Caroline several times as “he." I just thought it was part of the new gender-neutral curriculum. Finally, as the teacher was pointing out some of our son’s problems, I was able to read upside down the name of the student off the file on her desk. I knew the kid. He really was headed for trouble. So it really was only a half-bad conference. My mother would have killed for just one half-bad conference.
For the most part, I have been incredibly impressed with the teachers in the Fairfield school district — from Mill Hill School, through Tomlinson Middle School, to Fairfield Ludlowe High School. During this last open house night, I was impressed with the teachers' passion for their subjects and for teaching.
Only two negatives I could find from the evening — some of the water fountains were as my daughter calls them “hot tub” fountains. The water they dispensed smelled like chemicals and they were unnaturally warm. The other thing I was not impressed with was the parents' parking. Tthere were way too many cars there at the open house, so some of the parents with SUVs took it upon themselves to make new parking spots, mainly on newly planted grass or curbs. Some of the parking places on top of small hills looked like they were from a Jeep commercial. I thought, wow they are tearing up the grass. To have maintenance workers repair the grass will cost money. Money that could be spent on the water fountains. I was very gentle with my spot of grass.
My youngest daughter splits her day between two separate schools. She spends her morning in Bridgeport. Her time there is overseen by our Fairfield district. She takes classes like physics and CAD and chemistry. She is taking courses that I could never get into even in my best semester conference. It’s called the Bridgeport Regional Aquaculture Science and Technology Education Center (Aqua). Julia takes these science classes for two hours every day with one teacher and about 16 to 18 students. In regular high school, you no longer have individual conferences. With the exception of the boy who was confused with Caroline who I am positive has had many private conferences.
In Aqua, you have conferences. Every semester we sit down with her teacher and talk about her progress. She has had a few bumps in the road along the way and they knew about them and were willing to work with us on the issues. Having the same kid all morning allows the teachers to know the kids. Aqua has an abundance of science courses. These are tough courses to challenge the students, and the teachers seem extremely dedicated.
As we were leaving Aqua's recent open house, a teacher stopped us in the hall. He was a tough teacher that Julia had not really liked initially, but in the end she established a truce with and learned a lot from the class. He remembered us and even said that Julia was working on one of her projects this year with him. We talked about the project for a few minutes, then walked out feeling like this was a high-end private school, in Bridgeport. My wife and I contemplated this as I sipped from the ice-cold water fountain.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday. Email him at Tlawlor@mcommunications.com.