Just last week we held our parent/teacher interviews at school. As we didn’t have a ‘meet the teacher’ night this year as we usually do, this was the first time I was able to come face to face with most parents and caregivers of students in my Grade 4 class.
While this can be a long and arduous night after a lengthy day at work, for me, it’s one of the most humbling nights of the year. Each year, this night provides me with an invaluable perspective that helps to govern the remaining teaching days.
You see…everyone has a story…
Perhaps come interview night, teachers may be psyching themselves up for that difficult chat with parents of a ‘challenging’ student, or wearing their best set of boxing gloves ready to defend the claims they made on the report card, or they are just ready to lay out all the ‘issues’ on the table.
However, what sometimes comes instead is a dose of human reality.
You realize, that perhaps the kid who makes strange noises while you’re teaching algebra, just wants some extra TLC because his mom works nights and is still asleep when he arrives home, while his dad drives a truck all week and only makes an appearance on weekends. It’s what his parents must do in order to provide for their child and the next little baby on the way.
Perhaps the child who finds your lessons so entirely ‘boring’ that they have to sleep on their desk instead of participating, is actually just really hungry because money was tight that month and breakfast was the first meal to be compromised.
You then learn that another little girl has five circles next to her name for homework incompletion because her parent’s attention was on her sibling who has special needs and as much as her parents strive for balance, homework isn’t always able to be their first priority.
After getting frustrated by the 15th ‘late’ written next to your student’s name in the attendance folder, you realize that your student needs some extra sleep in the morning after caring for their parent who is terminally ill.
Adults each have a story and so do kids.
While these may not each be stories from my present school year, at some point they have been.
It’s incredibly easy to react when a situation frustrates us, but we always have a choice. We have the choice to step back and act instead of react.
When you act, it may simply mean, taking a deep breath and letting the little things go. Or, it may mean taking a deep breath and then investigating what’s behind what ‘appears’ to be the problem.
Sometimes understanding the root of a situation just comes from a simple conversation – like at a parent meeting!
We can use this method of acting instead of reacting in all of our interactions in life.
Perhaps the person who has just cut you off in the car has a family emergency. The server who was rude to you at the restaurant may have just lost a pet that morning and did not have time to grieve.
I am not suggesting that you exhibit the qualities of a doormat and allow others to take advantage of your compassion; rather, I am suggesting trying to give individuals an opportunity to be seen and heard before reacting to their perceived behaviour.
We don’t know everybody’s story and we all have one.
Thank you to all of those families who take the time to meet with me each year and to share your stories. I feel honoured to be able to hear you and to see you which in turn, allow me to better see and hear your child.