Tonight we visited with Oliver's preschool teacher about his progress. I know I've said it before, but I have become an infinitely better teacher since I've been a parent. It's easy to talk about data. It's easy to talk about what a student can and cannot do. It's easy to point to a student's skill breakdown on a chart. None of these are the reasons parents come to conferences.
Parents attend conferences to hear anecdotes about their children. Parents attend conferences to learn about their child. Parents attend conferences to catch a glimpse of who their child is in their absence. Parents attend conferences to celebrate their children.
Oliver's in preschool. We met with his teacher and I learned this: 1) Oliver has an outstanding vocabulary 2) Oliver says he loves school 3) Oliver is slow to master fine motor skills, especially as it pertains to drawing pictures of himself and the spacing between the letters in his name 4) Oliver knows all of his letters and their sounds (with the exception of both sounds for A and E) 5) Oliver knows all of his shapes and colors 6) Oliver can count to 25 7) Oliver sometimes struggles to verbalize his feelings 8) Oliver should repeat preschool.
I have so many emotions about this. Obviously, I want to do what's best for my kid. If his teacher suggests that he may need to repeat preschool, of course I'll take this into consideration. However, I look back at that "data." Oliver has met all of the skill requirements for preschool, but because he doesn't always verbalize his feelings, because sometimes he cries instead of using his words, because he draws only a head and legs, because Oliver subscribes to a Courier-style font (replete with pregnant spaces), because Oliver is a boy with a summer birthday, his teacher encourages him to repeat preschool.
I guess the part that kills me is that the woman didn't say a damn thing about my kid. She told me what he can do and what he can't do, but she didn't even remotely suggest that she knew him on even a superficial plane. If she did, she would have told me that he is kind. She would have told me that he is funny. She would have told me that he is creative. She would have told me that he is perceptive and aware--that he seeks out those who are sad and tries to cheer them up. She would have told me that his favorite color used to be orange, but when he showed up to preschool and found out that no one else liked orange, he decided that blue is his favorite color. If she knew him, she would have told me about how his eyes squint and turn to a beautiful shade of blue while a smirk spreads across his face when he thinks of something he really loves and that he nods his head just a little. If she knew him, she would have been able to tell me something about him.
But she didn't.
She gave me numbers. She gave me data points. She gave me percentages. She gave me cold, hard figures.
Maybe it's just my natural ineptitude with math, but I'm pretty sure this isn't the information parents show up to receive. As a teacher, it reaffirms how important it is to push the time on my 10 minute conferences. Each parent has arrived to hear about their kid. Not what he can do, but who he is.
I know I can't control other people. I know it's probably not worth it to email her and tell her that she sent us home deflated and discouraged, that she sent us home upset... It's a fine line to know what we can't teach...
But I can take it as a lesson for myself. I can be reminded -- as I head into conferences -- about the importance of celebrating and speaking to the individual, not just what a test reveals. I can be reminded that I'm talking about someone's baby, not just some kid. I can be reminded of what I want to hear as a parent...
I cannot change others, but I can be reminded of the most important pieces of education. And it's not the score.