Talking interviews

BITE SIZE MEMOIR

Lisa Reiter is writing her memoir and sharing her stories on her blog. She also invites others to join in and share their memories through her Bite Size Memoir prompt. Her prompt of the moment is “Interviews”.

In my role of teacher over the years, I have conducted many parent-teacher interviews, each with varying degrees of pleasure and stress. And that’s just for me! I have also sat on the other side of the desk attending interviews to find out about the progress of my own two children.

I mostly worked with children in their first year of school.

When conducting interviews with parents, particularly at the beginning of the year but at any time, I always invited them to talk first; to tell me their impression of how their child was going, to raise any concerns they had and to ask any questions they wanted answered.

There are a variety of purposes for beginning an interview in this way:

  • It gives the parents a voice and acknowledges their importance in the child’s life and education.
  • It ensures that any concerns parents have are raised and discussed first, and not left until the end or even missed out in the short time allocated to each interview scheduled on a parent-teacher night.
  • It provides an insight into the child’s life and how the attitudes of the parents may affect, or be reflected in, the child’s attitude to school and learning.

Often times I have found that parents share my concerns, and discussing them is easier when raised by the parent. One of the most difficult things is raising and discussing an issue of which the parent is unaware.

Over the years I have found that what parents most want to know is:

Is my child happy?

Is my child well-behaved?

Does my child have friends?

How does my child’s progress compare to that of others?

Prior to the interviews I would make a checklist of things I wished to discuss with each parent, including responses to the queries listed above and any other issues I wished to raise or anecdotes I wished to share, ensuring the positives always outweighed the concerns. I would gather samples of the child’s work to show and have at hand suggestions for ways the parents could continue to help with their children’s learning at home, which generally meant reading to them, talking with them, playing games together and possibly involving them in daily activities such as setting the table, writing shopping lists etc.

But I digress. My purpose in writing this post wasn’t really to talk about parent-teacher interviews, it was to list 10 memories about interviews in response to Lisa’s prompt. Like the parent-teacher interviews, many of them have a link to education.

I remember interviews

15073-Briana-web

School days

  • I remember brushing up on my conversational French for an interview as part of my final exam. I remember the interviewer laughing at something “funny” I said. I’m not really sure if he was laughing at what I meant to say, or at what I did say!

Employment

  • I remember not having an interview for my first teaching position. I was awarded a three-year teaching scholarship which, in return for my training and a small living allowance, “bonded” me to the Education Department for three years.
  • I remember agonising for hours over written responses to selection criteria but being unsuccessful in the interviews; and going without preparation to other interviews and scoring the job!

    bad taste party

    Would you employ this woman? Bad taste fundraising function at school.

Police

  • I remember being interviewed by a policeman after hitting a pedestrian on my way to work one morning. I was horrified to see the teenage girl bounce off the bonnet of my car. Fortunately she wasn’t hurt as I had only just pulled away from traffic lights, but we were both rather shaken up. She was only a few metres from a pedestrian crossing (also with lights) and the policeman said if anyone was to be charged it would be her. I wish she hadn’t been so impatient. I still worry about the unpredictability of pedestrians on the side of the road.
  • I remember being interviewed by police after our car was stolen. I was so upset I couldn’t remember the registration number. After it was stolen a second time, we got rid of it!

    stolen car

    Our beautiful car – stripped!

  • I remember being interviewed by the police after our house was burgled and giving them a list of items that had been stolen. The most surprising one was a big screen TV. Big in 1999 is not the same as big in 2014. It went as far out the back as it did across and weighed a ton. How they got it out of the house and down the steep driveway without being seen I’ll never know; or even why they did, as newer technology  was on its way and it wouldn’t have been worth much to resell.

The media (Note: You are neither expected nor required to watch any of the videos included in this section. They are simply for my amusement and learning.)

  • I remember being interviewed by the local paper when offering sessions to assist parents help their children read.

Satelitte 17.06.92 (2)

  • I remember being interviewed on Radio on the morning of the Family Day Picnic for the year of the family in 1994.
  • I remember being interviewed on a local community television station. I was invited to talk about the alternative school I was setting up. (I haven’t found the footage yet, but below is a response given to a question about self-esteem at a publicity meeting. Apologies for the amateur quality.)
  • I remember being interviewed at school about keeping butterflies in the classroom, twice: each time for different programs and different television studios.

 

Just as an aside, at about the same time that I was being interviewed about butterflies for the program “Totally Wild”, Bec was also being interviewed at school for the same program. She is proud to say that the times she appeared on that program numbered three to my one! Not long afterwards she appeared on the news a couple of in anti-war rallies!

Bec on "Totally Wild"

Bec and friend Elise talking about heating on “Totally Wild”

Of course, not all interviews occur face-to-face. Interviews can take place online too. During the 15 months that I have been blogging I have passed on a number of awards asking people to answer questions. This post is a compilation of the answers given to my interview questions by my first nominees.

Thanks, Lisa, for this opportunity to take a walk down memory lane.

Thank you

Thank you readers. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

18 thoughts on “Talking interviews

  1. Sherri

    Goodness Norah, you’ve had an incredible variety of interviews! That must have been so frightening when that teenage girl bounced off your car like that. I remember letting an elderly woman pull out in front of me in her car only to watch in horror as another driver, who clearly wasn’t paying any attention whatsoever, plough right into the side of her. I was held up for hours while the police interviewed me and I came away feeling like it was all my fault ;-( So sorry about your car being stolen too. But aside from all that, I must say, you are a wonderful teacher. Having sat on the parent end of a parent-teacher interview many times over the years for my three children, I can’t tell you enough how much your calm, genuinely interested and well informed approach means to us mums (and dads). You hit the nail on the head with the main areas that parents are concerned with, no doubt about it. I can hear myself now asking those very same questions and how wonderful when a teacher such as you is able to answer them with such great assurance. It’s teachers like you Norah that parents will never forget (and the children too). Wonderful post, thank you for sharing all your interview memories, a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting read 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Sherri. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post and I very much appreciate your feedback and encouragement.
      My experience with the pedestrian was frightening, but your experience with the elderly driver sounds horrific.It must have been so devastating for you, and while you were obviously not to blame, I can understand how you could feel that you had something to do with its cause. I hope your feelings were allayed by the police and other witnesses, but we are usually our harshest judges and don’t like to let go of our “guilt”, even when others don’t perceive it.
      I appreciate your very generous words about my teaching. I did work hard to build relationships with the children and their parents. I believe that a positive attitude held by all parties is necessary for the child’s success. I know that most parents appreciated the effort I made and valued the relationships I fostered. I can’t say I was successful on all counts, but I did try. 🙂

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  2. Sarah Brentyn

    It’s so neat seeing (and hearing) you on video. I agree with Anne that you are so comfortable and articulate. I’d be a mumbling, bumbling fool so Anne and I would make a great team. Yikes.

    We have had a few teachers approach us this way in parent/teacher talks where they let us talk first and, yes, I think it’s easier for the teacher (I was also on the flip side–talking to parents) to have parents bring up issues first that you can then expand upon.

    When I was teaching, I’d have parents not bring up major (and minor) issues that I’d then have to bring up. Awful. And, as a parent, my biggest pet peeve so far in these types of talks is when teachers dismiss a real concern of mine or my husband’s and say that our son is “not the worst one in class” or that they have “bigger issues to deal with”. ROAR! I don’t care. I was a teacher. I understand they have lots of students but you do not dismiss a parent and say something stupid like “I have so-and-so in my class. Your son is nothing in comparison.” O_o

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for watching and listening Sarah. I appreciate your interest and comment.
      I agree with you about the difficulty a teacher experiences in raising an issue of which the parent is aware. It does require quite a degree of sensitivity, doesn’t it?
      I can understand the frustration felt by you and your husband when you felt your concerns were not treated with the seriousness you expected. Parents are the ones who know their child best and any concerns they have should be given the utmost consideration, if only to allay their fears; but definitely not by brushing them off with a ‘not the worst child’ platitude. While parents might be relieved their child is not the worst (what sort of a comment is that anyway!!!) they still need their concerns dealt with.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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  3. Annecdotist

    Skip those wonderful videos? You must be joking! I was so impressed with how clearly you articulated your argument and how relaxed you seemed at being interviewed (I’m much more of a mumbler under pressure). And once again I’m so disappointed that you weren’t able to realise your ambition of whole-community education. But I guess not as disappointed as you are, but again I’m impressed at your apparent lack of bitterness. Now I’m hoping that someone else in the right place at the right time will find these videos and use them as a spur to action.
    Enjoyed the rest of your musings on interviews. I do agree with you about asking first for the other person’s expectations etc but certainly makes it harder when you then need to disagree.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Anne for your lovely comment, and for watching the videos. As I keep saying I wasn’t really thinking people would listen to them, but it was a good opportunity for me to learn new things.I did rather surprise myself at the time with how clearly I appeared to articulate what I wanted to say.I guess, as Bec commented, if it’s about a subject I am passionate about and know what I am talking about, it is not so difficult. Although my teaching role requires me to do quite a bit of talking, I have never considered myself to be a good or confident public speaker. I get nervous just thinking about adding a comment in a group discussion. I guess that helps me be more encouraging of children who are reluctant participants.
      You are right too about it being more difficult to raise an issue when it is not apparent to the parent. However a bit of finesse and tact can help the parent understand in a non-threatening way. I always like to be solution rather than deficit oriented, and I think that helps.

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  4. TanGental

    As a parent I totally agree the best parent teacher interviews were open discussions around what we could do to assist and what we thought might help. The ‘bet’ naturally were the ones that went wrong, like the teacher who confused our daughter with a classmate of the same name. She realised first and I can remember her face as it dawned on her. A bit like your face probably when that girl straddled your bonnet. Lovely post and great vids I bet (to be watched later)

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    1. Norah Post author

      Oh dear. How totally embarrassing and unprepared of that teacher and how low she must have fallen in your esteem. How much of what she had said did she have to retract? Were you getting an inkling that the child she was discussing wasn’t the child that you knew? I hope the revised edition was an improvement on the first!
      No need to watch the videos. I included them simply as a learning opportunity for me. 🙂

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      1. TanGental

        It was when she said she was quite disruptive. That came later. At the time getting her to speak in class was a challenge. So I was pleased in an odd way until she realised. And I will watch them. I love other people’s fashion disasters!

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  5. writersideup

    Norah, I esPEcially enjoyed the videos! How wonderful to hear and see you in action 🙂 And of all the interviews (quite the variety!), the one I relate to (unfortunately) is the pedestrian one. The man was 1000000% wrong because he stepped in front of a moving vehicle when he shouldn’t have. I had turned my head for a split second to look at a police car on the corner, turned my head back and see this man jumping out of the way. Of course, I got the ticket and even after fighting it, still had to fork up over $400 for something I didn’t do wrong. My blood’s boiling now just thinking about it. The system does NOT work in favor of the innocent many times. Ugh!

    Anyway…thanks for sharing all this! 😀

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    1. Norah Post author

      Oh Donna Marie, that is so unfair and I can understand why you are still incensed about it. It sounds a very similar situation to mine except that in my case the policemen could totally see where the fault lay. I still feel bad talking about it though because most people assume that whoever was in the car was in the wrong. Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

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      1. writersideup

        True. The driver is always considered wrong, pretty much. I don’t know how it is down by you, but here it’s become a nightmare with most pedestrians, at least in New Jersey. Just because a pedestrian has the right of way, doesn’t mean you walk out in front of a moving vehicle expecting someone to slam on their brakes or see you. It’s all stupidity. What ever happened to looking both ways before you cross, or waiting for a car to pass? It’s become this “entitlement” thing (as with other things, too!). I know I prefer letting cars go first any way. I don’t want to feel rushed crossing a street or in a parking lot because the cars are waiting either. To me, unless it’s raining out or there’s someone who has a difficult time walking or is disabled in some way, it’s much easier for the pedestrian to wait or stop short. I always let cars go first! I don’t know. I just get really irritated by the mentality and I’m more nervous now than ever about it, as are you *sigh*

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        1. Norah Post author

          It’s interesting that pedestrians have the right of way. They don’t here where they must wait use provided crossings or, if there are no crossings, wait until it is safe to cross. I have often wondered about the behaviour of pedestrians in movies I watch. They just seem to rush across the road without any regard for traffic. Your comment explains why. I think I’d have trouble crossing. Like you I’d be waiting for all the cars to go. It might take a little longer to get somewhere, but at least you get there! 🙂

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          1. writersideup

            Norah, the laws vary from state to state, but here in NJ the pedestrian must be IN a crosswalk and already walking. This guy wasn’t in a crosswalk and I was way too close for him to have even considered stepping out. In court the actual law wasn’t considered and the “sped up” replay on a camera AND the “you can turn down the plea but the judge may still find you guilty so you get a worse penalty” thing dictates you plead “guilty” even though you’re not. I was literally depressed for several days over this because that pedestrian AND the courts STOLE $433 dollars of money I did not have and had to charge on my credit card. I was going to write a letter really speaking my mind about the whole thing and how it ultimately went down. Now it’s further in the past, it won’t do any good, except for me getting it off my chest which, with time the desire is no longer a “burning” one and won’t waste that kind of time. It stinks.

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            1. Norah Post author

              It does sound like something it is better to put behind you, otherwise it will just sap you of energy. It’s not worth wasting your time on it, but it is certainly a frustrating occurrence.

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  6. Bec

    Great article Nor! I particularly loved seeing your fashions change throughout the eras (thinking about your photo with Ziggy in the ‘bomb’ post recently too!). Your interview about COLO and the Family Day Picnic was great, you spoke with a lot of confidence, perhaps because of the authenticity and passion behind what you were saying. I also really liked your discussion on the parent-teacher interviews: something seemingly so simple as asking the parents to speak first (though saying simple I don’t mean to undermine the cleverness of doing this!) could have such great impacts on parents feeling heard and involved, and hopefully fostering more positives for the children. Thanks for the great post.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Bec. It is interesting to see the fashions change throughout the ages! Thanks for listening to the interview. As I said in the post, it wasn’t an expectation, more an opportunity for me to do some learning. I really appreciate your positive encouragement. It means a lot to me. 🙂

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