After School Conferences: I Have Something to Say to Teachers
This week my lovely wife and I went to parent-teacher conferences at our kids' schools. Two different schools and two very different children. Both in age and temperament. Each with their own strengths and challenges. And I have to say a huge THANK YOU to the teachers, personnel and schools in the Sioux Falls public school system.
I want to shout it from the highest mountain how great our experience has been. I say without an ounce of irony, those people are doing God's work on Earth. Our teachers are underpaid, underappreciated and under enormous pressure. I am here to report that they are doing amazing work.
Early in his academic career, his elementary school saw that our oldest had a problem reading. He was having trouble keeping up, he was not reading at his grade level and was having a terrible time at school. The school asked my wife and I for a meeting and suggested our son get some extra help with his reading. With special classes, patience and the dedication of true professionals; his teachers shepherded him through elementary and into middle school, where he is reading at his grade level.
His reading issue also caused him to lag in math. Last year the school identified this problem and got him into classes that helped him go from catching up to now nearly exceeding.
This is extraordinary to me because when I was in elementary school, in the 1980s, I had similar problems with math and reading. But I was left to fend for myself. It could have been because it was a smaller school district. Or the fact that I know how to fake it enough to get by in most things. Or my grades were good enough in other subjects for me to sneak under the radar with a nice C average. But, I had trouble, and got labeled trouble and lazy; as 'one of those kids,' and got left behind. By the third grade I hated school and had a horrible time in a classroom. That lasted until I failed my first try at collage. I figured out what I was lacking and worked to catch up and go back and finish my degree. But school had left a bad taste in my mouth.
But, this is not happening to my children. Not because I am 'one of those parents' that pesters the teachers or locks the kids into a rigid AP prep schedule. No. It's because of the sterling performance of Sioux Falls public schools. Everything they do is about making sure our kids get the best education possible. If they don't respond to one style, they find a way to make it happen.
When our oldest started middle school I was so surprised at the culture of achievement and acceptance that infected everything. Over and over we saw that the teachers, personal, and administrators were there to make sure the child succeeds. It is so different from my experience in school that I almost don't recognize it as school.
Our experience in elementary school is similarly awesome. Our youngest is very different then brother. She has her own challenges, but our experience has been just as amazing. I know she spends the day in a building full of people that are looking out for her. Helping her identify what she's good at and accentuating those aspects. At the same time they're spotting where she needs to work harder and providing the tools and guidance to make it happen.
I know everyone's experience is different. There are personality clashes, bad luck and still the chance of a kid falling through the cracks. But, I cannot overstate how great our kids' teachers have been.
My kids, and yours too, are smarter at their ages than I was at the same time. Thanks to their teachers. I gave them a certain genetic intelligence and work to ensure they live in a positive environment. But, without the important addition of their teachers, the kids would not be on their way to realizing their potential. I don't care how they teach math, just that my kids are learning it; in school, at the ages they need to.
As a side note, I also love, love, love how diverse the schools my kids go to are. This mix of people and language helps to create smarter and better global citizens.
InMark Twain said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” I believe this to also be true when the world comes to your little corner of Earth.
My children's school experience is so different than mine, and so much better. Thank you teachers of Sioux Falls for making it that way.
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