It’s that time of year ….Parent/Teacher Conferences! As a teacher, I valued the time spent with caregivers to share information about their learner, while gaining insight into my young student’s life at home.
Some parents were visibly anxious during these meetings, and no matter how carefully I chose my words, there were tears. I always had a box of tissues handy. For some, this was the first time learning that their precious 6 or 7-year-old was having difficulty in the world of “school”.
It was my job to help a caregiver get past the pain of struggle, and look forward with support and a plan to get their child where they needed to go – and to avoid comparing their child to others. No matter where they “ranked” in the classroom, I wanted my students to be proud of their hard work and effort that would bring them continued gains. It was my job to help the caregiver see the unique gifts their child offered even in the midst of struggles. For children who struggle, comparing themselves to others can be a recipe for disaster. These are the children who will shut-down, become class clowns, and begin avoiding the hard work that makes them feel defeated. IT was my job to make sure these children were challenged enough to make important gains, while not overwhelming them to the point of defeat. I needed their caregivers to be on our side, to be cheerleaders in this game of school – where so many children’s gifts get lost as they try to be like someone else – to please their parents, or teachers.
One of the saddest parent/teacher conferences I had, was when I was teaching Kindergarten. I had a child who was lagging behind their peers in many ways, yet expressing themself through Art was a strength. They loved creating. In discussing this with the parent, I was dumbfounded when they told me that the pictures the child were bringing home were terrible, and they ripped them up and put them in the trash. They were not worthy of being hung on the refrigerator. My heart broke for this child, yet knowing this made me work harder to help this young child find their bright light.
All children will shine if we let them do it in their way, in their time – with support and guidance from those who love them best. Don’t waste time and energy worrying about how your child compares to anyone else – don’t give your child the message that they should be like someone else – love them as they are. For in that love your child will become the best version of themself.