We are all on our own journeys, some of which we can control and some of which we can’t. When I became a parent, I thought that I would have a considerable amount of control over that part of my journey. I’d worked with children for a dozen years, was well-read in current child development theory and was pretty sure I’d figured out all the mistakes that I’d seen others make and would definitely not make myself. At conferences I offered parents advice and simple answers. I had this figured out.
Then my first child arrived, and I soon found out I had no idea what I was doing. This child had (and still has!) a smile that melts my heart, an amazing sense of wonder in everything, and a wicked sense of humor, but they were also colicky, had trouble sleeping, and cried for no reason that I could find. The only thing that would make them fall asleep was a long ride in the car until they eventually wore out. As they got older we met other challenges that I had never imagined or that I thought I’d be able to avoid with my expertise. Everything I thought I knew was thrown out the window – despite my experience, despite my education, despite my cocky self-confidence.
Kid number two came along and though you’d think that this time I’d know better, I instead was sure that I had it figured out now. My experience would lead me to not make the same mistakes. And I didn’t. But this was a different kind of kid with different needs, and I made different mistakes. Again, this kid is a loyal friend, a delightful companion and easy-going in so many ways, but we still ran into our challenges.
Now, we approach parent-teacher conferences, I think about moving from the teacher side of the conference table to the parent side. I remember the feeling of going into a conference as a parent, wanting – needing – to know that the teacher and the other kids liked my child, that they could see how deeply I loved my child and was doing the best I could for them, that they knew how special and amazing my child is. Yes, I wanted to hear if the teachers had any concerns about their development or their learning. But most of all, I wanted to know that the people who were spending time with my beloved child really saw them, and loved them.
This is my goal as a teacher when I invite a parent to meet with me: I want them to know that I see their child, that I love their child, that I know their child within the context of their classroom and want to know what they’re like in other areas of their lives, and that I know they’re doing their best and that parenting can be a tough job. We’ll talk about any concerns either of us may have, and we’ll talk about what comes next for their child, but most of all I want the parents to know that I’m on their side in this parenting journey.
…Susan Roscigno, Co-Director