I survived my very first experience with Parent/Teacher Conferences tonight. Between the hours of 1:00 and 7:00 pm today, I met several of my students' parents and discussed progress. I was a little nervous leading into this day, although I loved every, sacred minute that I got to sleep in this morning. I had almost forgotten how rested one can feel when they don't have to wake up until 7:30.....anyway, I digress.
In my mind, I had this terrible feeling about conferences. I just knew that some parent would come in my room ready to devour me/pick on me/belittle me since I am a first-year teacher and, therefore, new to this whole thing and a terribly easy target. I could not have been more wrong about how the day went. Far from being negative, it was a very positive experience. There were some parents I wished I could've met, just to get some at-home support for some kiddos, but all-in-all it was a great day. I even had a student, in front of her mother, say "I just want to thank you, Ms. Herring, for helping me understand English. I never got it until now." I smiled so big.
There were several moments like this, with kids and parents:
"We were nervous about seventh grade English, but this is his favorite class."
"I don't know what you've done to him, but he can't put down books these days. He's always hated to read."
"I hear about your class everyday. She must really like it."
After all the fretting I have done this semester about whether or not I'm doing this teaching thing right, it was so rewarding to hear parents be excited that their kids were excited about English. More than anything, I loved hearing parents talk about how often they saw their students reading a book. If I can give any one thing to my students to take with them out of my class this year, I want it to be a love of reading.
If there was one, wonderful conference all day, it was with a grandmother of one of my sixth graders. This student was convinced he was "bad at English" from Day One. He even told me so every, single day, in front of the entire class. "I hate English," "Writing sucks," and "I don't even know why I'm in here" were a few of my favorite Whinese phrases in this kid's vocabulary. I was determined to convince this student that he actually was good at English, but I seemed to be failing terribly at this goal. Then, two weeks ago I happened to mention in class that I was running a 5K that weekend. His face lit up. "Ms. Herring! I run too!! I'm running in that!" From that moment on, his attitude about English made a 180. His grandmother told me today that he has, in fact, never liked English. He does, however, like this English, because I run too. I told her I would run a marathon if it meant he would keep liking English.
This conversation made me realize that I can't make prepositional phrases fun for everyone, but I can show an interest in my students as people and not just as students. I did run that 5K, and I was not fast. But my student came in Monday, told me he looked up my time online (which his grandmother confirmed), and told me he hoped we ran in the same race again. It's the sweet, small things that make my day, but the same is true for my students too. I didn't do anything special; it just happened to be enough. If I can continue doing enough this year, then I'd say that's a good start to my life in the classroom.