Friday, November 11, 2011

Extended Family

For Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tonight we teachers stayed at school for an extra six hours after our usual day of classes. It was parent-teacher conference day and from 2:00-8:30pm we were available for parents to come and meet with us to discuss their children’s progress during the first quarter of the school year.

Having spoken with numerous parents already via email during the first two months of school, I had only the parents of nine students scheduled during those six hours. I began my conferences speaking with the proud parents of one of my creative writing students and next I met the mom of one of my strongest AP English teens. Over the course of the next several hours I would meet a variety of people whose children are taking one of my five different courses. We discussed student study habits, curriculum, and goal setting, but more important than any of these items, we discussed the teens themselves.

I met moms and dads and a few siblings of the young adults I spend my days with. I giggled as I saw one girl cringe at how embarrassing her dad was as he joked around with me, and I felt my heart warm as she later forgot herself and joined in laughing too. I grew excited to see the joy in a mom’s face when she spoke of her daughter’s memoir project and as we agreed that her daughter is a confident and secure young lady. I laughed with another mom as we discussed the differences in siblings and I watched the pride in the eyes of a few fathers as they spoke of their sons.

I used to be easily intimidated by these conferences when I was a new teacher. I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing or coming off poorly when I’d meet parents. How time changes things! Nowadays I greet each new set of parents with a genuine smile. I am excited to meet my students’ parents. I am as honest as can be as we sit and discuss their child’s strengths and weaknesses. I offer advice easily and share my understanding of the challenges of parenting and teaching a teen.

Tonight, one of the parents took a seat and immediately asked me one question, “So what do you think of my son?” I immediately smiled. In my head I knew this mother was looking for one thing, whether or not I understood her son--his intelligence, his personality, his strengths and his challenges. So for a good five minutes I found myself talking about what I knew of her son. I shared what I see, hear, and believe, and I told her what I am going to do next in working with him. When I finished talking the mother grabbed my arm gently but firmly. “I am so happy I came tonight”, she said. “I knew the first few minutes you started talking, “Oh, she’s good. She knows, really knows him. I feel very good about what this year will be for him. Thank you”.

I smiled and as I walked her to the door I told her that meeting her had been the highlight of my day. There’s nothing like having your observations, your ideas, your work validated by those so important. There is nothing quite like having the approval of your students’ parents.

As the evening came to a close and I packed up my things I thought of how tonight had felt like a gathering of extended family. I may not be my teens’ mother, but I do feel as though they are my children, and it is a good feeling to know the people who raised them and who love them so much. I am lucky to have the chance to be a part of their lives, if only for 10 short months. It feels good to have all this in my life.

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