I’m Young, Not Stupid

by Erika Klein 

It’s something all parents go through, the parent-teacher interview, which typically begin when your child starts school. While most parents find these sessions informative and a chance to get to know your child’s teacher and school life better, if you’re a young mommy, it can be downright awful.

From the time my daughter joined preschool, right up until middle school, the parent-teacher interview was something I dreaded. I hoped that I would be treated as any other parent but most years there was a learning curve, on the part of the teachers. In order to prove myself and to introduce myself to the school community, I spent the primary years volunteering for the class and school, in an effort to prevent discrimination.

All too often, teachers have made comments about how young I look, asked personal questions that were inappropriate and have even at times felt they needed to tell me “what my job as a parent was.” I found the experience to be humiliating because teachers associated my youthful looks with being inexperienced and even dumb. Because I was young and not married, the teachers and staff believed they could cross a boundary and treat me differently than other families. It was a tricky situation at best.

Volunteering went a long way with the school, I was given a volunteer service award and with time, the other parents, (the older married ones) began to get to know me and our children became friends. Still, as we changed schools, the same comments and gestures were made by teachers and the responsibility was on me to show them different and break the myths and stereotypes middle class teachers held about young single mums like me.

My best parent-teacher interview came when my daughter was in 7th grade. The school was situated in an upper class area; I’m not sure if this was part of the reason it went the way it did. I sat in the hallway with my daughter, feeling green and nervous, wondering what was to transpire. After so many hits and misses, I really didn’t know what to expect.

We enter the classroom and the teacher welcomes us in. He begins the interview by addressing my daughter directly. “You’re not doing your best in class. You’re talking to your friends, reading when you’re supposed to be working and your grades are suffering. I expect an improved effort from you, starting Monday.” My daughter sat back in her chair looking shocked. Instead of blaming the young single mom and getting off the hook, the teacher was holding my daughter accountable for her own learning.

He leaned over to shake my hand and smiled and said, “Lovely to meet you, Ms. Klein. I look forward to meeting you with again. If you have any questions or need to contact me please feel free.” I walked out of there feeling like a million bucks. The parent-teacher collaboration had finally sprung into action. This partnership, which is so very valuable, began with a basic respect for myself as a parent and my child as a student, with no preconcieved notions or negative assumptions. This gave me a renewed sense of hope that I could be more involved in my daughter’s educational career. Way to go Mum!

Some tips for parent-teacher interviews:

  • Always dress appropriately; try to be basic and neat.
  • Express your willingness to have open communication with your child’s teacher
  • Communicate your child’s strengths and weaknessess. Offer your own assistance and tips. Remember it’s supposed to be a partnership of learning.
  • Don’t get defensive. Instead stay calm and breathe. Think before speaking.
  • You can always re schedule another meeting at a later time or speak to the principal if you feel you are being unfairly treated.
  • Enjoy it. Your child will only be this age once in their lifetime.
  • Be proud of your child and yourself!

Erika Klein is the mom of a beautiful 14-year-old and she blogs at http://findingerykah.blog.com.  


  1. This is great. I am not very young but I look really young and the results of that are pretty much the same where people take me for a fool. I politely correct them :)

  2. Sometimes I struggle with the same issues, but I try my best to not let it affect me. I always try to look my best when dropping my son off to school in the morning, picking him up, or meeting with his teachers. I fill them in on how his morning went (if he was cranky or chipper, etc) and I make suggestions based on books and/or events that my son and I found interesting. I try so hard to make it a partnership. Sometimes too hard. But my hope is that it’ll pay off.

  3. Wow, I am glad I read this. My daughter is only 1 year old so I hadn’t really thought of this yet, but I can certainly see that situation happening. Although I already know that I will want to be as involved as you are with her school, and I think that I tend to come across as older rather than younger than my age most of the time, so hopefully it won’t be a challenging when the time comes. All the better now that I’m prepared! :) Thanks!

  4. I am 42, but I look young. I have a nearly 15 year old, and I am often discriminated against by other parents, teachers, and administrative staff. Many times I am caught off guard because I walk around knowing how old I am, so when they start talking down to me I am usually puzzled . I took my 10 year old to class last year and the teacher (who is the same age as me), demanded I tell her whether I was the parent or a sibling. I just stared at her with a smile because I thought she was joking. When I didn’t answer she, got a little snippy.

    I do know how you feel, and it doesn’t matter what age you are. God has entrusted you to raise your babies. Keep showing up to represent them, and the small-minded will get the point.

  5. This blog hit the mark for me! My daughter is 10 yrs. old and I’m almost 30 (but look very young still). After years of having issues with teachers/administrators, I was beginning to think that maybe – just maybe – it was me! Did I volunteer enough in class? Should I bring more stuff to class? Although I know now that it’s not me and have gone on to create great relationships with teachers, there are those nagging insecurities that remain when a new school-year comes around.

    Carolina – @youngurbanmoms

    • @Carolina – Yes! I do find myself being very self-conscious whenever I’m around the teacher and other students. I just want to be able to be treated like any other parent. My daughter’s teacher is pretty cool so far, and I don’t see much difference, but I definitely do see it among the other parents.