Parent Night – Paranoia and Praise

Last night was parent night.  Like Parent-Teacher conferences, there is this big foreboding.  There is a build up of walls and fortresses.  It’s us against them.  MAN THE BATTLEMENTS!  However, when all is said and done, Parent Night is always a great night.  There is no time to be cornered, questioned, or pestered.  There is only time for you to introduce yourself and let parents get a sense of who you are.

We bombarded our parents with Power Points, Course Descriptions, and On-Line communication systems, and tutorials.  But really….all they wanted to know was….does this person love my kid?

This morning I read a letter to teachers written by a mother who lost her 6 year old at Sandy Hook last year.  In Nelba Marquez-Greene’s letter she thanked teachers for what they do.  Not just for their selfless sacrifices to save children in a crisis, but also for their care and love of those kids who are lost, sullen, unhappy.  She was speaking of the child that would later come to his mother’s school and kill her daughter.

It was a great reminder for me.  As I read her words I remembered all those faces that sat in front of me last night.  The parents were smiling and enthusiastic; they just wanted to know that you care about their child.  They just wanted to know that you will help to make their child a confident young adult.  And if their child learn something along the way and gets excited about your subject…well that is an added bonus.

Nelba Marquez-Greene ended her letter with a moment that she had with her daughter shortly before she died.

A few weeks before the shooting, Ana Grace and I shared a special morning. Lunches were packed and clothes were picked out the night before, so we had extra time to snuggle. And while I lay in bed with my beautiful caramel princess, she sensed that I was distracted and asked, “What’s the matter, Mom?” I remember saying to her, “Nothing, baby. It’s just work.” She looked at me for a very long time with a thoughtful stare, then she told me, “Don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry, Mom.”

And isn’t this the truth.  We teach because we love kids.  We teach because we want to make a difference.  Yet the stress of our busy work lives can get us down.  But “It’s just work.”  And ultimately we have to set aside the stress and have moments with our families and our students that recharge our fun circuits.  So laugh with your students.  Get excited about the little victories.  Be flexible and change course when needed, keep those fun circuits charged.

So that is my will for you fellow readers, fellow colleagues, and fellow teachers around the world.  It is just a job.  Don’t let it suck you dry.  And know that sometimes those parent nights can actually recharge your fun circuits.

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