This afternoon, Jaclyn and I stepped into Miles’s school at 3:30 for a parenting rite of passage — our first parent-teacher conference (as parents, anyway). “All right,” I groaned, making a slow, deliberate descent into a chair far too small for me. “Give it to me straight.”
I was only half-joking, as some of the recent reports we’ve gotten from school have described Miles as “defiant,” “hitting other kids with a har,” and “smart” (as in, “Miles is…well, he’s smart“). I know, academically, he’s doing well. He’s always quizzing us about rhyming words, identifying the phonemes he hears in words we say, and is even making attempts at sounding words out on the page now. But were his behaviors beginning to overshadow his academic progress?
Thankfully, not really. Yes, he still tries to negotiate excessively, but he’s also a good helper in the classroom. Sure, he has disagreements with peers, but he’s also friendly with everyone in the class and likes being part of the group. And much of the meeting was focused on his academic progress, with his teacher appearing most nervous about telling us about his mid-October benchmark scores, which were mostly good, with the exception of his non-existent phonemic awareness. My response was something along the lines of “Oh, is that all?”
Having worked in education in one way or another for as long as I have, I get it. There are parents out there (many, MANY parents) who take the slightest weakness as a sign that their child is hopeless, or that the teacher isn’t doing their job, or that the teacher is just wrong (if I had a nickel for every time a parent said to me, “Well he’s just not doing this for YOU” — NEWS FLASH: there is absolutely NOTHING a child will do for a parent that he/she/they WON’T do for their teacher. More often than not it’s the opposite). But I’ve already seen growth in his phonemic awareness in the last month (I assured his teacher that this is more or less the only thing I do for a living) and more importantly I understand that benchmark assessments are just snapshots in time. A test that was taken in mid-October is obsolete by November 1st when you’re dealing with pre-K children who are soaking up information like Neo jacked into the Matrix.
All kidding aside, the conference went more or less as I expected, and the absence of any bombshells (i.e., “Your kid is eating all the glue”) was a huge relief.