p.t. barnum

(day 14)

Parent teacher conferences are here again. Everyone has their opinions on them and I guess for lots of people it depends on the current crop and its state when the time comes. Heavy hitters with parents who think you should’ve “fixed it” by now, who, although difficult at times to navigate, at least signed up for conferences. Then there are those whose crystalline perfect image of the child they are raising in their home does not necessarily fit with what is seen in the classroom. You can see in their offspring some inkling of this home pedestaling as most fall somewhere on the entitlement spectrum. But at least those kids are injected with a healthy dose of self confidence.


I love conferences regardless. I mean, I love teaching. Don’t get me wrong. And there’s something about the regimented, schedule-based structure of it all that I know is good. But I like conferences and things like that because they represent something different. Demarcation points sprinkled through the year where I get to do what I love. But with a variant. It’s why I try to do all the PTO events. I get to be a teacher, officially, but beyond instruction. Or meetings. Most of those variations at work, meetings, I could do without. I even love the breakfast my district does to kick off the year. I don’t need a break from routine then as school hasn’t even started but I am there as a teacher with everyone else, but doing something different.


Having 3 kids I’ve gone to my share of conferences. I’m not saying this is always the case, but the lasting memory I have of my conferences, like from before I was a certified teacher, was a feeling of always being underwhelmed. And my kids had great teachers. I’m not slighting them. I see the other side now. I have been lucky enough to have respectful kids who make friends easily and have little to no social problems all while keeping up on their grades. I’m not sure what I was expecting from an educator staying at work until 8 PM who has upwards of 20 to 50 kids to conference on or add input to. They would go through the data charts based on standardized tests and whatever stack of work sample papers all placed in a folder with my kid’s name on them, hand them to me, and ask if I have any questions. I would always ask if they were happy, seemed to have friends, etc, and they would usually give the “pshh” yeah, everyone loves so and so, no problems there. And I get up and leave thinking “that was it” as the next family enters upon my leaving.


But now I’ve done it multiple times. Now I know that the family who cares enough to ask how their child is doing socially and I get to throw the pshh at them, is a “good” conference. I know my students. And as I’ve covered, I remember what it’s like to be underwhelmed in a meeting about my great kid. So I try to inject as much personal, day-to-day glimpse stuff as I can but to be honest despite it being a variant on the usual day there is still a sort of conveyor belt feel to the process. As much as I try when I get to student five or so in the midst of a solid block of eleven in a row and they are sweet, well-meaning, imperfect eleven year olds scoring within the adequate range of all the data points, it’s difficult to conjure the circus atmosphere within a 15 minute time frame that these purveyors of their miraculous little globs of perfect unique awesomeness (rightfully) feel they deserve.


So I hope and I try to fill those gaps on the day to day. While we are in the Mon-Fri where everyday is scheduled in neat little boxes and planned for. I hope that stories of my wacky lessons or individual meetings with my little people lets parents know that there is a connection and their individually wrapped bundles of growing, evolving, developing, hormonal joy is seen and heard and nurtured and pushed by someone who actually experiences them. Every day. Despite the fact that each child needs this, the parent (rightfully) only focuses on the one they made and my hope is that they know, walking in, that our circus celebration of their little miracle happens in our daily grind. Every day.


Because on days like today I think most about the kids, not their upper management at home. I think about those whose parents or guardians I won’t be seeing tonight. Who I reach out to to no avail. Whether or not it’s because they can’t see the perfection in their midst that deserves a singular circus show just for them or not, I still think of them. And I know that in many cases they choose not to see what is needed or deserved. Or they can’t. Those kids will get a little extra next week. And I’ll make sure I have it to give. Because all of their classmates with parents who show will get extra from me tonight. I know the others deserve the circus too.

3 thoughts on “p.t. barnum

  1. I just had an Annual Review for a student I’ve been working with since 1st grade and they are off to the junior high next year. It’s been amazing watching this guy grow into a person and develop a great personality on top of all the academics. You’re absolutely right that we need to celebrate the heck out of these kids in all that they do!


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