I didn’t expect to be so nervous, after all, Thea is 4 years old, how much bad stuff could a teacher possibly tell me? And yet, I have seem some 4 year olds tear apart a classroom, hit other children, destroy and conquer at their whim. Surely not my own kid, right?
As I sat down next to her teacher in the tiny little 4K chair, I wasn’t sure what to do now. She had welcomed us, Thea was proudly showing off her classroom to her younger siblings, and so I waited for the information to start. “She is a such a sweet girl…” were the first words we heard, and my heart that had been residing in my throat up until then started to slow down and slide down. Everything would be ok.
I have been doing parent-techer conferences for 6 years now and the past 3 years have been student-led. I thought I knew what it meant to be the parent walking into my room. I thought I knew how to put them at ease. And yet, it wasn’t until the other night that I truly got it. I want to hear that my child tries. I want to hear that my kid is ok and if they aren’t then how are we going to help them. I want to hear the concerns. I want an honest discussion led from wanting to help, not wanting to punish. I want the truth and I want to know what I can do.
As teachers, we have the power to devastate a parent. Sure, there are truths that sometimes are hard to say, but it is in how we say that that the difference lies. I am not there to ruin a child’s night, but I am there to be truthful in what they need to conquer to be successful students, or even kids, sometimes. I am there to say what I see but in such a way that it is seen as fixable, not determined. As workable and not as too late to do anything about.
As we left, Brandon turned to me and said, “She has empathy, that means a lot to me.” Never mind the letters she doesn’t recognize or the fact that she always counts 11, 12, 13, 16… – but our kid is empathetic. She will be ok after all, her teacher told me so, even if there are things to work on.