Today my wife, K, and I went to our daughter’s Parent/Teacher conference. I’m embarrassed to say that this was the first conference that I have been to since she was in kindergarten (she’s in second grade now). Nee was ecstatic when she found out that I would be attending the conference. Actually, so was I.
K and I walked into the classroom and took a seat in those tiny elementary school chairs. I hoped that this conference wouldn’t last too long. My knees and back wouldn’t be able to withstand more than 15 minutes. The teacher opened the conference by telling us what a great student Nee was. She showed us reports from her other teachers who had similar comments. All in all, things went as expected. Nee is studious and respectful – traits that teachers adore.
I admired the fact that Nee was able to sit outside and play her Leapster confident that her teacher would say nice things about her. Her confidence made me think about some of the Parent/Teacher Conferences from my childhood. Let’s just say that my middle school years were not my shining moments. While the other kids were celebrating the day off, I dreaded the things my teachers would tell my mother.
She was understandably upset after my teachers told her how I had missed assignments, skipped class, and made several visits to the principal’s office. My mother, who earned barely above minimum wage, had to miss a day of work and ride the bus to my school only to hear that her son was not living up to her expectations.
“I’m not sending you to school to act a fool,” she would say before the spanking commenced. This cycle repeated throughout sixth and seventh grade. Until middle school, I was a model student, just like Nee. I guess I had some anger issues about my father’s not being there and needed to rebel.
Things turned around for me after my seventh grade English teacher gave us a writing assignment. Hers was one of the classes I often skipped to play basketball or wander the halls. I wish I could remember what the exact assignment was, but my feeble brain cannot recall it. I do remember that it excited me more than any middle school assignment ever had. The rest of the class was pretty excited, too. I was caught up in the wave of euphoria when one of my classmates, Helen, turned to me and said, “What are you excited about? You won’t turn in this paper, just like you haven’t turned in the others.” Her comment cut me to the core. What right did she have to call me out like that? I made up my mind to show her that I would turn it in and that mine would be better than anyone else’s.
Over the next few nights, I worked hard on that assignment to make sure that it was my best work ever. My teacher was shocked when I handed her the assignment on time. So was Helen. A few days later, my teacher returned the graded papers. However, I did not receive mine. Before I could protest, the teacher began praising my work to the entire class. She even gave me hug before handing me my paper. It had a big red “A” on it. I was happy because I hadn’t received an “A” on an assignment in a long time. At the end of class, Helen pulled me aside and said. “I’m proud of you.” I couldn’t believe it. Wasn’t this the same girl who had mocked me a few days earlier?
That experience changed my attitude towards school. From that point on, I stopped skipping class and became serious about my education. No more was I the troublemaker – I quickly became the kid that others asked for help with their homework.
I never feared another Parent/Teacher Conference.