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The Parent / Teacher Conference Phrase Decoder

Parent Teacher Conference Phrase Decoder Guide

*Big thanks to The Huffington Post for also running with this humorous back to school / parent-teacher conference post!

Twice a year they meet with us, many of us, in 20-minute increments, stacked like six-packs of 4×4 In-n-Out Burgers (Protein Style, natch.) In hallways we wait, we sit and we stand and we sit again, restless, we check our phones, we look at the walls and pretend to be fascinated by the artwork of children less talented than our own. And then we are ushered in, and the teachers they say things, many, many things, but generally the same things. Again and again. Rinse. Repeat.

But what does it all mean? What’s your child’s teacher really trying to communicate about your darling [insert child’s name here] as you both squat onto tiny blue plastic chairs, seats barely adequate for an American Girl Doll let alone a human adult, and speak in code. A dance as old as time.

Fortunately, OWTK has just today, finally, and once and for all, decoded the common phrases spoken by teachers at all elementary school parent teacher conferences. Here now are the nine most common phrases overheard at Parent / Teacher Conferences, DECODED just for you.

WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: “She’s got an independent spirit.”

WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: “She doesn’t follow a single instruction, like, ever, making the flask I keep hidden deep inside my desk among the stapler refills, glue sticks, and paper clips, 100% justified. Care for a breath mint? I’ve got lots.”


WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: “She’s got her own sense of style.”

WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: “You are aware this school has a uniform policy, correct? If she wears the fedora/feather boa combo in here one more time I’m sending her to the principal.”


WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: “He clearly has a lot of support at home.”

WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: “Most of the parents I deal with are total douchebags who don’t give two shits about their kids. So hi-five for not being another one of them.”

WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS (ALTERNATE): “Let’s not dick around, I know you are doing Johnny’s homework. And your pretend-kindergarten handwriting sucks.”


WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: “There’s nothing she’d rather be doing then burying her nose in a book.”

WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: “Listen, I get it, the majority of these kids are a total bore. I don’t blame her for spending time with her library of books instead of her classmates during recess. Hell, I wish I could snuggle up with my Kindle instead of correcting their atrocious spelling again and again, but I can’t and it’d help both of us if she’d put Amelia Bedelia down and pay attention while I’m teaching.”


WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: “He’s having a hard time keeping his hands to himself lately”

WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: “I’m not saying he’s definitely going to be spending time in a juvie hall within the decade, but some of the early warning signs are unavoidable. Maybe a chat about personal space is in order over dinner tonight, k?”


WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: “You’re raising a terrific child.”

WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: Exactly what she said, you are an amazing parent.


WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: “His mind sometimes wanders during class.”

WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: “I unfortunately have to teach to the middle, so that the dullards in the classroom don’t get left behind. Your bright son has every right to be bored out of his mind. I’m sorry. Write to your senator.”


WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: “She has no weak subject.”

WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: “She doesn’t show a tremendous aptitude for anything. She’s going to make a fantastic cashier someday.”


WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS: “Your son doesn’t always have the most nutritious lunches and snacks to eat in school.”

WHAT THE TEACHER MEANS: “Lunchables? Really? Every damn day? Are you seriously too lazy to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? And cool it with the doughnuts in the morning, the math teacher has begun using your son to demonstrate circumference.”


Mysteries solved! Now you know exactly how to decode your next Parent / Teacher Conference.

*Photo taken with Samsung’s NX300 — 30mm.

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  1. OMG, my kid’s going to juvie.

  2. I think there’s a 529-type plan for bail, Debbie. 😉

  3. Must. Start. Investing.

  4. Bil Hooper says:

    I knew it, I’m going to get lunchable-shamed.

  5. I’m merely decoding the messages, Bill. 😉

  6. As a former teacher I can relate to these. Well done. I’d like to add that if, near the end of the conference, the teacher notes that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, it’s not necessarily a compliment. Depends on context.

  7. or maybe teachers just really, really care about your kid….and spending long, long days at school to connect with you are their way of showing that.

  8. I am a teacher as well and have conferences in a couple of weeks.
    I can definitely relate to a couple of these. Some gave me a good laugh.
    Good luck with the show (that’s the way I think of it).

  9. Oh gosh, you hit it right on the nose. And my wife’s a teacher, so I know.

    And what’s with those chairs, anyway? They need special chairs for parents for those nights, to soften the blow.

  10. Funny stuff here. As a veteran dad of parent/teacher conferences, I can honestly say these are spot on.

  11. I wonder what the male teachers say. Wait I am one and much of this is complete bullshit.

  12. Pretty sure I know the code for, “she has strong verbal skills”. Like mother, like daughter, what can I say?

  13. Haha! That’s brilliant, Wendy!

  14. Well, to be fair, it is meant as a bit of a laugh, Buddy. Not so much as fact.

  15. Thanks, Jason!

  16. I’m dying laughing right now! I’ve heard a few of those and my son is only in first grade! Thankfully, some I’ve heard were the good ones, but some……not so much.

  17. Hah! Thanks for reading, Tracey!

  18. This must pertain to a public school.
    THANK THE LORD my two won’t step inside one….

  19. THANK THE LORD that he granted us public school teachers with a sense of humor! I needed to read this post after a long few days of conferences, gave me a good laugh!

  20. So glad you enjoyed this post and that it pulled out a few laughs!

  21. Yeah, that feeling varies by region. We are beyond happy with our public charter school, but the story can easily be the polar opposite just 30 minutes down the road.

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