Saturday, October 31, 2009

Parent conferences

I cried all the way home. Steven's mother said I was a bad teacher. I didn't change his name in the blog. That incident happened 31 years ago and if Steven and his mother still walk the face of the earth today- I'll take the risk that I am the only one of that trio who remembers the story. What I remember about Steven is that he was the one student of Caucasian decent in the first special education program I taught. One day he showed me a hunter's license. One day he used the pumpkins I had naively lined the middle school windowsill with, as bombs. If someone had the temerity to walk the street in front of the middle school, he attempted to drop a pumpkin on his/her head. He was unsuccessful with the pumpkins, I never heard how successful he was with a hunting rifle.

Open school night came, that night 31 years ago and I was completely aware of my incompetency as a new teacher, yet Steven's mother was quite willing to discuss it with me. She advanced the theory that Steven was failing all his subjects because I was a bad math teacher. I didn't see the inconsistency. A veteran teacher reminded me that my teaching skills or lack of teaching skills wouldn't have explained why Steven had been placed in a Special Education class, 5 years before, before I had graduated high school.

But it didn't help. I cried all the way home.

And I feel the need to relive that story every open school night.

No one told me I was a bad teacher this year. I did hear a lot of stories. I did talk a lot. But I will only recount one here. (Names changed, back to the present)

I passed Kenneth and his parents as I walked down the hall. Kenneth has had an IEP since I met him in 7th grade, but as he entered high school last year, his ability to cope with academics and obtain good grades soared. He qualified for the honor society and when it came time for me to ask him about his career goals, he told me he wanted to be a doctor.

Kenneth and his family (which is doing a great job of keeping enrollment up in our school- soon there might be one member in each grade) were huddled around Kenneth's progress report. The grades in general continued to be good, but he had failed science. The junior science teacher is a tough cookie. Oh- the teacher in charge of the honor society was making a mighty fuss - how disappointing, how could Kenneth fail science, she expected so much more.

"He'll fix it," I said, "he's going to go to medical school to become a doctor so he can take care of his old teacher in her old age."

"Do you want a doctor who got a 55 in science, taking care of you?" Honor society teacher asked,

"Yup," I nodded and moved on.

"She has confidence in you, Kenneth," I heard the oldest sister say as I headed for the next conference.

I didn't cry on the way home.
(I don't know if Kenneth did)

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