If you have kids, you are familiar with the phrase “Parent Teacher Conference”. You get a note home or an email asking when your preferred time to meet is within a few days they have set aside. You make your first, second and third choice. It is probably me, but they never were at a convenient time. Either way, I juggled after school activities with taking off work early to go by and hear about how well or not my kid was doing. This year is different and I couldn’t be more happy. I’ll explain in a moment.
At this point in my life, I’ve been eligable to attend for 17 years in a row. Let me pause for a minute to make sure and clarify (because we have to do that in todays society). I am very much a supporter of my kids teachers. I homeschooled a couple of times in my life with our oldest two and have the most respect for them. I believe they are underpaid and overworked. I think they have less of a voice in the system and still SHOW UP FOR WORK. I couldn’t do it and am so thankful they do.
Now, let me also say, parent teacher conference has always been a dreaded time for me. Not because I didn’t want to talk to the teacher, but because I never knew what I would need to hear. Some people call this a pessimist but I call it a realist. I really believe my kiddos are human. I believe they aren’t perfect and that neither am I. I also believe that learning to be kind, compassionate, Jesus followers trumps an ACT score. Do I want them to do well academically? Yes, of course. But to the detriment of their emotional health and confidence, no.
To me, each of my kids is different. That is good and that is how God made them. I want to celebrate and advocate for them to be who God made them to be.
A few years ago one of the twins, Izzy, had a teacher who was great at communicating with us but seemed more pressured or worried about test scores than we were. We had already been down a long road with Izzy. A story for another time but here we were with a diagnosis of Tourettes and always feeling the need to explain our child to every teacher and coach. We tried to send a letter and make note when we meet teachers at the beginning of each year. We also check in during these Parent Teacher Conferences to see how she’s doing with her peers. This one particular year though I had my last nerve pinched. I try really hard to be as compassionate and passive as I can but I was out of those words and had to lay out my honest feelings with this teacher. I debated sharing this but feel it’s part of me being vulnerable and also hoping to give encouragement to other moms out there just trying to do their best for their child. Here is what I sent the teacher after she requested her sixth parent teacher conference with me that year…..(name has been changed)
Thank you Ms. Smith for the update. We do want to be made aware when Izzy is not completing assigned tasks.
With that said, we believe at the beginning of the year we tried to set you up with information that would help you understand Izzy and who she is. Compared to most of the children in your classroom, she has probably had the most early intervention and testing for diagnosing her syndrome. She’s had special education therapy’s in preschool, been tested multiple times in elementary and diagnosed with Tourette’s after two years of trial and error on different medications. We have been told she is average (from her tests). We are okay with that. We understand as a teacher you want the best for your students and for them to achieve the highest marks on tests and be able to learn the maximum amount required by the state in a year. We want the same for Izzy. But what we want more is for her to be compassionate, humble, kind and respectful. We have worked very hard over the years to turn a very upset and frustrated child into who she is today. In fact, most people would not even realize she has overcome so much unless they have known her over the years. We see this but realize you have not had the opportunity too. We like to focus on her progress more than what she isn’t doing well. She responds much better to “catching her doing good” verses pointing out what she is lacking in. Does this mean we don’t have consequences? No. In fact, we try to be as consistent with discipline for the things we are aware of such as your email today. She has consequences for not doing her homework and loses privileges. There are times Ryan and I are passing with our work schedules and may not be following up daily with signing her reading log. Ryan is in Little Rock serving on the Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling this week. I fly out for work next week. We do our best but may not always check all the boxes with every child if they do not initiate it. At this point in her life, we are not concerned about her ability to be a successful student even if it’s just “average”. Could she do better having us sign a reading log? Yes, but we are not sure having a sixth meeting this year is going to be productive for either of us. If you feel she is lacking in a way that is holding her back from learning, then we suggest meeting with the principal to discuss our options.
Ryan and Jennifer Martin
I will admit this isn’t how I would prefer or have ever since addressed a teacher. But I know my child and I know what limits she can handle.
This brings me back to this weeks Parent Teacher Conference requests. Now that the twins are in junior high, I have 12 teachers that have sent me their google sign up sheets. And for the first time I have been able to reply that my husband and I will be out of town visiting our daughter at college during that week. So far all of them have said have a good time and the twins are doing great. Praise Jesus! This doesn’t mean I’ll be skipping out of them in the future but it does mean that right now, my kids are doing okay. They are thriving in a world that has been very chaotic this year and loving school. This is largely in part because of great teachers. Izzy is now old enough she took over the role of sharing this year with each of her teachers about her Tourettes. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her and how kind and receptive her teachers have been. I expect there are still bumps ahead but I am celebrating where we are now and a little victory dance for a well scheduled college visit.
God gave us the kids we have. Each of them with all their differences. I have doubts at times I am the best mom for Izzy. But God reminds me over and over He chose me to be her mom. Do you have a child that tests you or has an obstacle they may need to overcome for life? Guess what? God chose you to be their mom. These kids of ours shape up and grow us far past the first 18 years. Let them. Let them grow us and shape us into who God wants us to be. And along the way, tell someone else they are doing a great job. I promise, we all need to hear it.
Living Day to Day-