Wednesday 21 February 2018

Staff only: For the benefit of Mister Kite (and Mrs O'Braght)

E Grade

For the benefit of Mr Kite, I'm lying through my teeth at the parent-teacher meeting as I smile at him and his wife and tell them their son is doing not too badly in class.

I know the boy's name, (I mean, who'd forget 'Jethro Kite'?) and sure enough I have plenty of data on a sheet provided by the school office, such as his date of birth, parents' names, family doctor and even his blood group.

Problem is, he's got one of those really old-fashioned names like Joshua that have somehow become trendy again, but so have a few other boys and I haven't a clue which one their son is.

He might as well be Turlough Hill, or maybe Donny Brook, but I've only been teaching this crowd since last September and the first thing I noticed was that some of the boys looked very alike and the next was that they had very strange names.

"Jethro's doing fine, Mrs Tull," I say with a smile at the mystery boy's mother. "Kite," her husband corrects me. I'm struggling here but trying not to show it -- I just can't put a face to the crazy name, just a possible three.

"He's very quiet," I venture, and I'm right, as Mrs Kite couldn't agree more -- he has to be pushed and then that's when he feels he has to make a point, she says, with a knowing nod.

I'm nodding back and I promise Mr and Mrs Kite that I'll push him more and they leave satisfied. I promise myself I'll find out which one is their son.

Almost immediately their place is filled by Mrs O'Braght. No problem placing her daughter Jaminta in the rogues' gallery.

"You're the one who's never in," she snaps. "All them different teachers, how's she meant to learn anything?" Mrs O'Braght is wearing her best pink towelling tracksuit and must have dyed her hair that particularly alluring shade of nicotine only last Easter. I explain that I was out for a while with swine flu and that it wasn't something that I had particularly enjoyed.

"Yeah." She's already bored. "How's she getting on, then?" Just then, one of our transition years appears with biscuits and vile coffee.

Mrs O'Braght helps herself to a handful and imperiously orders tea from the transition year helper. One of the hard and fast rules in this particular school is that the parents of the most troublesome kids don't attend P-T meetings, so naturally I bestow praise where it's due (even if Jaminta herself is a chip off the rude block), telling her that her daughter could get a decent Junior Cert if she works at it very hard. "I'll make sure she does," declares Mrs O'Braght.

I have to admit that such encounters help me fully appreciate and exploit the growing role of parents in school life. On one hand, Jethro will receive more of my precious attention, while on the other it appears Jaminta will benefit from increased parental scrutiny.

Irish Independent

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