This month, parents across the country tentatively step into their child’s classroom for a teacher’s progress report during parent-teacher conferences. As a parent who once was a teacher, I know what it feels like to sit on the opposite side of the desk. My hands were shaking with nerves at my first conferences, but I quickly found out how the meetings with parents were for the most part, positive. I even enjoyed them, despite the exhausting fact that they usually were scheduled at the end of a long school day.
The difference between conferences now and when I was a student is that we never went with our parents. We sat outside and hoped for a good report, trying to read our parents’ faces when they walked out of the classroom. Now the student accompanies the parent, which helps the child take responsibility for their learning and behavior.
The first meeting I had this year was at my daughter’s school. It was my first time meeting the teacher, and the first words out of E’s mouth after our introductions were, “We’re late because my mom got pulled over for speeding. She wasn’t paying attention to how fast she was going because she has ADD.” (Note to self: talk to daughter about filtering.)
Once we got settled in, the teacher talked academics and gave a few suggestions on areas for improvement. She showed me the printout from standardized testing (don’t get me started on the American obsession with standardized testing). The bar graphs set in front of me barely made sense, and I was pleased when the teacher said they provide the results for parents who want them but don’t put a lot of stock in them. Great, I said, neither do I.
As we were wrapping up, the teacher told me how the previous week my daughter’s class welcomed a new student. She said that E immediately included the new girl and helped make her first week a great one. I patted my daughter’s arm and tearfully said how proud I am of her. She matter-of-factly stated that she knows how it feels to be new (we transferred in when she was in first grade).
It’s more than that, though. As my daughter passes through the years of school, her ability to be a good friend increases in her close friendships, old and new. I can’t tell you exactly how she grew up learning kindness, and couldn’t tell you how to teach it. What I do know is if my children grow up to be kind, it’s worth more to me than all of the straight-A report cards in the world.