This morning I have my first of seventeen student-led conferences. The child’s mom is due to have a baby next week. She requested an early conference. I don’t really know what to expect. This mom lashes out at everyone. She leaves rude messages on the answering system, sends angry letters, and yells at whoever picks up the telephone. Up until three weeks ago, I had been immune to all of this, somehow ducking the inevitable.
Each year our school promotes a read-a-thon as a fund raiser. The children are encouraged to read a half hour at home, bring in a signed slip from a parent as proof, and then the slips are fashioned into a chain attached to the head of a caterpillar and displayed outside the classroom doors. The kids get great delight watching the caterpillar grow. They are proud of their accomplishment. Parents and friends are asked to sponsor children per slip with any amount of money manageable. This goes on for two weeks. Eleven of my seventeen children brought back permission slips to participate. Six did not. I volunteered to sponsor those six children. I sent their parents a note requesting that they listen to their child read and send in the signed slips. I explained I would love to cover the cost. Four parents took my offer. Along with the signed permissions I received a note…
It seems I made one parent angry by implying she never reads with her child. She went on to tell me that I have done this before. When she told me the math homework was too hard for her child, I wrote back and said it was meant to do with the parent and it was okay if her child was struggling…many do. The note was long and I was definitely the target of some previously unleashed anger. I could tell it would do no good for me to respond. I could not reply and tell her all I was doing was offering to pay for the read-a-thon so her child could participate. I could not tell her all I meant was for her to feel free to help her son with his homework…it was not cheating. Her perception of the events was different from mine. She had a different experience with school as a student. I can’t tell her I am not the enemy but an ally. I can’t explain to her how much I enjoy her son. She won’t hear me.
So…when I got the request to accommodate her needs for a conference, I acquiesced. When she comes in this morning, I will greet her with a smile. While her son handles the first part of the conference on his own, I will be proud of him. As we discuss her son’s next steps as a learner, I will look her in the eye and conduct myself in the most professional manner possible. Perhaps I cannot tell her…but maybe I can show her.