Saturday, March 02, 2019

Student-led conferences

Yesterday we spent a long afternoon at the kids' school for their student-led parent-teacher conferences. Their teachers had each prepared about 20 minutes of material for their students to slog through with their "guest," which was...meh.

On the one hand, it was interesting because I got to see what they were doing at school.

This has not been year. For me, I mean. My kids are doing fine.

I feel a little bit like I'm treading water—trying to find a job, getting a job, trying to buy a house, dealing with Karen's death, the day-to-day of a rather difficult semester for Andrew—so things like, I dunno, signing reading logs has gone out the window (those things are the absolute bane of my existence). I basically have no idea what my children are doing at school, except that I know that they're doing fine.

That's what their teachers keep telling me: no missing work, high achievers, no behaviour concerns, etc. That's just what a parent wants to hear about their child(ren). And so I'm pleased. And also, I have just kind of checked out in that regard.

I'm still involved—I read with them and I help them study things they don't understand...I just expect them to come to me about things they don't understand because I don't have the energy to stay on top of what they're each learning at any given time.

So it was nice to see exactly what they're doing on a daily basis.

On the other hand, blah. We spent so long in each classroom and were all rather bored. The showcase child was bored because the assignments were easy, but time-consuming. The other children were bored because they were being held hostage after school by these "conferences" that weren't really conferences at all.

Miriam went first because she had to go off to organ. We had to do a reading comprehension activity, which she breezed through, and then she had to complete a multiplication quiz in under two minutes.

Why?! I know she does a multiplication quiz every day. Why was it important that I time her doing it? How is that any different than showing me the quiz she took that morning and saying, "I finished this quiz in 1 minute and 41 seconds! Isn't that neat?"

It just seemed like a lot of wasted time and it didn't reveal much about my student to me.

We had to do the same thing in Benjamin's classroom (only his was an addition quiz and was only one minute long).

The reading station in his classroom was even more difficult to get through. Allow me to explain: I've been frustrated the entire school year by his teacher's lack of desire to challenge Benjamin. Even more than a lack of desire to challenge him, she seems almost to want to put the breaks on him, to slow him down so he finishes the grade with everyone else rather than encouraging him to...soar.

At the reading station she had a story for the child to read aloud to their "guest" who would follow along with a separate script, circling words the child stumbled on (to gauge their accuracy).

When we got in the classroom, there was a student already at this station, struggling through this story with his mom.

Benjamin took me in, and led me through the whole process. We started at the math station and then we went to the writing station and finally we made it to the reading station. This same other boy was there with his mom, still slogging away. Benjamin picks up a story and read it fluently and flawlessly and answered the three comprehension questions in about five seconds—bam! bam! bam!

He was done.

And that other little boy was still sitting there, sounding out words. It was, frankly, a little awkward for everybody.

This is not to denigrate that little boy. Kudos to him for sticking to something that was clearly difficult for him!

This is to say that while I might not want my own little boy to struggle quite as much as his little friend (who he truly felt awful for) I do want him to struggle sometimes.

Everything he does all day long is easy for him and so he's bored all day long, which—have I mentioned?!—does not bode well for me at home! The work he brings home is sloppily and hastily done and his teacher keeps insisting that if he would simply slow down and do his very best, neatest work he wouldn't be quite so bored. But she strikes me as a bit of a perfectionist and Benjamin absolutely is not that way. So he's not going to slow down and do his best work when he thinks an activity is banal.

I, frankly, think slowing down and doing your best work is trivial as well. I'd rather have him feel like he's being challenged. Why? Because a learning environment should challenge you.

I'm a little worried that he'll begin to equate school with boring and easy. And then when it starts feeling difficult for the first time he won't be up for the challenge because by then he'll have forgotten that learning is supposed to be a challenge.

Anyway, Rachel's meeting went well. She went through her activities pretty quickly and then we had a nice chat with her teacher (the only teacher we really chatted with the whole afternoon). I suppose it was a good conference because I found out what math class Rachel is in (the one I suspected she was in)!

I wonder if I will ever not feel frustrated about school. Probably not.

My mom had been so excited when my little sister finished high school—she was free from the traditional school calendar, free from signing homework logs and practice logs, free from everything the public school system entails. She'd had kids in school many years...I don't know. Kelli would have started kindergarten in 1985? Josie finished high school in 2012? So 27 years?

But then my niece asked if she could move in with my mom to finish up her high school years and my mom was thrown into it for three more years. So my mom ended up supporting students through a good 30 years of school.

I'm on year 7 and I'm already tired of it. We only have...17 years to go.

Andrew's advisor, Judith, warned us that we'd come to regret it when we had Miriam skip from kindergarten to grade one. She was worried that when it came time for Miriam to graduate we'd feel we had rushed her through her childhood. In Judith's defense, she only has two children so rushing one toward graduation does feel like rushing into empty-nester status.

I'm not sure we'll ever feel like we rushed Miriam because when she graduates we'll still have three kids (and nine years) left in school.

Class of 2036 here we come!


  1. Kelli started kindergarten in September 1982, actually. Josie finished High School in 2012. So it was 30 years already without Rosie. So glad to be done with it!!

    1. Thanks for clarifying that! I was trying to figure out all the math. I thought Kelli had turned 40 last year (when Alexander turned 1) so then I must have miscalculated her start date. Oh, well. That's what I have you for! :D

  2. Kelli = 1977. She is 41 years older than Alexander. Also, so much to read!! (Thanks!)