Parent teacher conferences and flying your own path

About the old parent teacher conference…

It’s not that I dont think it matters. Quite the contrary, in fact. I believe that a transparent relationship between an educator and the parent is crucial to ensuring the academic success of the child. But here’s the thing; they are boring, awkward and uncomfortable.

Also, when and why did they change math?

My oldest son is in 5th grade and I can’t do his math; at least not to the standards of his teacher. It’s not so much that I think this is a problem as it is that I dont like feeling dumb.

So there I am, sitting on a little stool, at this itty bitty little desk, having a conversation with my son’s teacher. By all accounts, he tells me, my son is a wonderful student.

“He is a joy to have in the classroom.” He says. “He is helpful and pleasant and attentive.”

“My son is an effin genius!” I casually think to myself.

“But…” he says, with a certain amount of doom saying gravitas. “He needs to show his work…”

These words sent a shiver down my spine. It was as if I relived the weight of twelve years of educational failure in a single, soul piercing instant of reflective remorse.

He then proceeds to break down the fundamentals of their current math curriculum and suggest that we take some time every night to practice and drill.

Basically, I was just assigned math homework.

I nodded and smiled and pretended that I was both competent and responsible enough to assist on my end.

“Yes.” I said. “We will definitely download this math app and make it part of our nightly routine. Right in between not having enough time to eat dinner, clean up and adequately bathe ourselves. We’ll just cut into our already nonexistent family time so that my son can demonstrate, to your standards, his ability to divide fractions.”

I didn’t actually say this. Instead I sat there on the tiny stool in front of the itty bitty desk and I felt like less of a parent while delivering an empty promise to just try harder to assist my son at home with his school work.

Excuses are worthless. I know this but I also understand the value of perspective.

Society places upon us demands that are not neccesarily beneficial to our personal development as a whole. It seems to me that this bar has been pushed a little deeper up the academic ladder than it used to be.

When I was a kid, we walked uphill in the snow both ways but at least the unrealistic demands of life didnt truly set in until maybe 10th grade. Welcome to the new world order.

So what then, is a parent to do?

I suppose that it depends entirely on what values your family holds dear. As for my family, we celebrated the fact that it was a mostly good report for my kids, bought doughnuts for dessert and watched Iron Man on Netflix. This did not leave us enough time for our math homework but I hope to have instilled a greater lesson in my children.

There are moments in life that are so beautiful and rare that one must make sacrifices in order to catch them. For me, seeking out those celebratory moments as a family is at the top of my list. Forget the noise that is other people telling you what matters and decide for yourself. Homework be damned. Sometimes you just gotta fly your own path.