School

In Loco Parentis: Why Teachers Rule



Mozart probably never dreaded the parent-teacher conference.

In wine, truth (in vino veritas); and in parents, madness (in loco parentis). At least that’s what we teachers would joke as the season for parent-teacher (and sometimes parent-student-teacher) conferences hove into sight. Having gone from being a teacher with no kids of my own to being a parent with no teaching duties in the course of five short years, I can safely say that teachers are much healthier for children.

The truth is, parents have no perspective. And that is good and proper. Parents are hopelessly vertical, teachers hopefully horizontal. Parents are rightly obsessed with their kids and all their friends are seen through that prism. Ninth grade biology teachers see a lot of ninth grade students and, when they do their job well, as they often do, they can provide a lot of context about life as a ninth grader to parents as well as biological knowledge to students.

Parents and teachers are the adult representatives of the two great worlds of a child’s life: home and school. Being able to navigate each individually and between the two fluently is part of growing up and is just one of the reasons why homeschooling is, in principle, an extremely poor alternative. The intersection of those two worlds — the coming together of matter and anti-matter — is why older students dread the conference time of year and why parents and teachers alike greet it with fascination, hope, and dread in equal measure.
Parents give love and support but often our expectations are unmanageable. My own parents were wonderfully supportive over 20 years of education but I remember watching “Amadeus” as a teenager with my own father and him turning to me in partial jest and saying, “By the time he was your age, Mozart had written an opera and transcribed the Vatican’s secret mass, what have you done?”

Thankfully I had some ninth grade teachers who could tell him.

Dan FriedmanDan Friedman is the award-winning arts and culture editor for the Forward. He has written for the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and Da Ali G Show and he is currently writing a book about Tears for Fears.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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