It’s that time of year – parent/teacher conferences. I know that you are busy finishing report cards and diligently making notes in preparation for talking to parents.
I know that some of your conferences are occupying more of your mind than others. Because of learning struggles, behavior issues, IEP plans, and other special circumstances some of your conferences will take more time than others.
I’m sure you are actually looking forward to my child’s conference because he is doing just fine. He does his homework, his grades are mostly above average, and he only talks “once and a while.” Our conference will be easy and quick.
That’s actually fine by me, too, because I have other children who’s conferences will be the ones that run into someone else’s time because we are talking about academic struggles and behavior issues and meeting IEP goals.
But I want to ask you to please look a little deeper at my “average” child. You see, things are not always as they seem on the surface. I know because I’ve fallen into this trap, too, even as his mother.
This child, who keeps his nose clean and does his work and responds to discipline, is actually fairly complex. But you’d never know that because he doesn’t want you to.
He wants to stay firmly tucked under the radar where it’s safe. Where he doesn’t have to challenge himself, where he doesn’t have to be in the spotlight, and where he never has to take a risk. He is anxious and self-conscious and unconfident, all while pretending he is not those things.
He doesn’t want to risk embarrassment or failure; therefore, he will never push himself past his comfort zone.
There’s another thing you might not know about him as well. He is still feeling the effects of his older brother’s untimely death. He won’t tell you this; but he feels it deeply in his heart, and it weighs on his mind more than anyone could know.
He won’t tell you that at home he has, by default, been pushed into a role that he was not born to have. Because his oldest brother is gone and his other older brother has a disability, he is now “the oldest.” He is the one who is trusted, the one who is depended upon, and the one in a role that was not his from the beginning.
But he would rather stay firmly tucked under the radar where it’s safe. Where he doesn’t have to challenge himself, where he doesn’t have to be in the spotlight, and where he never has to take a risk. Where he can continue to be anxious and self-conscious and unconfident, all while pretending he is not those things.
Teacher, I’m not here to offer you advice or tell you to change how you are teaching him. He is, in fact, doing just fine; and in many ways that is a relief to me.
But I do ask, maybe in those rare quiet classroom moments, when all the piles have been sorted and all the students are working quietly, that you consider my average child. Consider how you can help him to be more than just average, more than just quietly hanging out in the back row under the radar and out of the spotlight.
Maybe it’s with an extra smile or bit of praise. Maybe it’s by acknowledging that you appreciate his cooperation. Maybe it’s by noticing one of his strengths and suggesting something that plays to it.
I don’t know, but I’m sure you’ll think of something.
In an easy world, other teachers would just let him be. He’s fine, right where he should be.
But in a better world – a world I want him to aspire to – he has help along the way, even if it seems like he doesn’t really need it.
I’m hoping that you can see his struggles and pain and not let him get lost in them. I’m hoping you can help guide his path from good to great.
Because you and I both know that’s where every child deserves to be.
Thanks for your hard work and devotion,
Average Child’s Mom
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