For some reason, parent-teacher conferences always make me a little nervous. There have been a few stressful meetings at the school (mainly early on when we were still trying to figure out whether Zoe and Alexander would be placed in Kindergarten or first grade as entering students and, of course, the awful first conference I mentioned in “The Fisherman’s Wife”). One of the things that stands out in my mind about these meetings is having to sit on a tiny uncomfortable chair — often while the teachers sit in normal adult-size chairs! So, I am happy to report that when I went to school to meet with Zoe and Alexander’s teachers last week, I was given a comfortable grown-up chair in each classroom. After that, the rest was cake.
Alexander’s grades were mediocre — only one A (in reading, of course), but his teachers described him as happy, engaged, and with an amazing vocabulary! Zoe was praised as an excellent student (and her grades reflected her hard work and diligence). However, both teachers said she was very quiet and did not participate much in class, which surprised me.
The upshot: The teachers clearly had gotten to know my kids. They had lots of observations to share and seemed really interested in bringing out the best in Zoe and Alexander. Both teachers were insightful, enthusiastic, and funny (definitely a plus).
Truth be told, I still felt a little uneasy about the whole ordeal (I guess calling it an “ordeal” is kind of a giveaway, huh?), but it was definitely a positive experience and reinforced my general sense that fifth grade is turning out to be a good year.
As a coda, I’ll mention something I came across while working on scrapbooks for the kids. While going through the bin of stuff I’ve been saving for the last few years, I found several notes written to Alexander by his second grade teacher. This was a woman I did not feel close to and never developed a particular rapport with. At the time, second grade had the reputation of being “tough” compared to first grade — i.e. “no more Mr. Nice Guy”, time to whip these kids into shape and prepare them for the rigors ahead (see “Worrying never solved nothin'” and start-of-school-year meetings). It was an end to sweetness and warm fuzzies. There would be no hugs shared between the teachers and parents. (The first grade teachers were huggers.) And yet, three years later, I found myself reading wonderfully encouraging notes from this teacher to Alexander. Handwritten cards praising his progress, telling him he had a good day, pointing out the positive changes he had made through the year — all signed “Love, …”
Another example of being able to look back and see how far we’ve come in our journey and appreciate those who have helped along the way. And the years keep twirling by.
Here’s a poem I wrote awhile back that touches on some of that, though, of course, imperfectly.
School in Summer
school in summer, a mower
stalks the field, sound
swells and recedes. My children
rush the playground, reborn
and, for now,
I sit on a bench
with my magazine
of budget cuts
and lay-offs of
one who brought my child
through a hard
first year, a nest
his eggshell curve
the leaves on their stems.
I smell mint.
Soon all this will be gone.