Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hope & Relief

  • I had such a nice conference with Lane's teachers the other day. I really like them. It was way better than I had expected, in fact. I think one of the worst parts of having a child who struggles in school is having the feelings as a parent of helplessness and wounded pride and ultimately guilt that goes along with it (at least for me.) Sure, I'm worried about him & his future and all of that. I somehow suspect though, that he's going to be okay. I know that there is so much more to life than a letter grade on paper & that a lot of people who were poor students end up being successful later. In the mean time, I don't like feeling like I'm SUPPOSED to enforce raising his grades and feeling incompetent to do so.

  • Going in to conferences I always kind of wish I had a rock to hide under because I'm sure that the teacher is wondering what type of messed up family life and poor parenting this child has had to get him to this particular level. I feel the need to explain defensively that we have tried SO MANY things to no avail, that while we're imperfect parents we're making an effort, and that we do have other kids who are doing fairly well in school. Yes, I realize that proving that we have 3 out of 4 kids who are getting decent grades isn't really what the teacher needs to know and that pride cometh before the fall... but I've gotta hold on to a morsel of validation that we're not all together failing our children's educational needs.

  • Anyway... the teachers were terrific. The didn't look at me like a white trash parent at all (or at least if they were thinking it they hid it well.) They told me how great of a kid they thought he was and I got the impression that they really meant it. They acknowledged that we had tried all sorts of stuff and that he was just one of those kids that traditional school didn't work for & that it wasn't his fault. They asked about his interests and talents and said that kids like him always find their niche. They understood that he is very artsy and always off in his own little world and that while that's problematic when you need him to be in the present during math that being a dreamer wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I felt like we were actually a team working together to brainstorm ways to help him and that everything was really going to be all right for him this school year. The things that were said that meant the most to me were:

  • "He's so well-behaved. He's nice to absolutely everybody, even the kids that no one else is nice to and the kids that aren't nice to him. If I had to choose between a kid getting good grades but being a jerk and a kid getting poor grades but being a good person, I'd take the kids with poor grades. So, he has some really redeeming qualities."

  • "Have you heard that students of band continue to outperform their non-band peers on the SAT? Plus, being musical can open up a lot of doors for him too. There are a ton of careers that he can pursue in the Arts and make a fortune. Just think, if he does end up writing a science fiction novel or something how much money he could get. There's nothing wrong with being an extremely creative person."

  • "It's these kind of kids that always find their niche. He might be 35 before he finds it, but he'll find something that he can excel in. Our job right now is to quit setting him up for failure & start making it possible for him to experience success. Whether that be assigning less work and helping him with task completion so he isn't always behind or changing his schedule so that he can do better in the classes that he has, our main priority needs to be to accommodate him & raise his self-esteem."

  • So, I walked out of that conference just feeling such hope & relief. When I got home, I told him how awesome his teachers thought he was & that I was so proud of him for standing out as one of the nice kids. Now, I feel like I have permission to get off his back about schoolwork and to just celebrate his achievements instead. I've always known that he was a great kid and felt like we just needed to "get through" this school thing and that he had enough other good qualities and skills to hopefully compensate. I've heard lots of stories of people who suddenly "got it" as an adult and I've hoped that he would be one of those guys that finally understood what his teachers had been trying to teach him once he got out in to the real world and needed those skills. I've just never felt like his teachers saw that & I felt a certain pressure to prove that there was an effort being made and that he had potential. It's so refreshing to know that his teachers are on the same page & that they're willing to put out the effort to help him realize his potential too.


  1. Natalie, that's great! He sounds like a great kid, with excellent teachers.

  2. One of the wake-up moments for me was a time I was appologizing for Liam's school performance, and Mrs. Parks stopped me and said "But Liam is a nice person. Being good at school isn't the most important thing." I have fallen back on that statement soooo many times!

    And I also couldn't agree more with the confidence/success idea. That has been my main focus with Liam too. Just change/eliminate/rework something, so he can feel smart and successful. This year I can see that it has been working. He does feel better about himself, and it is paying off in all the other areas. I'm so excited for Lane! And you, because I know what it's like. I know I feel that release of pressure when I feel like the teacher's are working with me. Good Luck!!!

  3. He sounds like a great kid and you sound like a fabulous parent.

  4. That's so great Natalie, it's nice to know there are some teachers out there you 'get it,' and see kids as more than just a letter grade. What a relief!

  5. He sounds so much like Zaine. It's amazing how kids will cling on to something and we don't even realize how much of a blessing it is. Like writing stories, or being a daydreamer who isn't very good at math. We have the same situation in our home, and it's easy to not feel like a good parent because of it. I've learned that having a straight A student, isn't necessarily a sign of "great parenting"..
    I'm glad you feel some relief!! Keep on, keeping on!!