The following article is a testimony to the lifelong impact that positive, honest, candid and constructive communications between educators and parents can have on a student`s self-esteem and hope for a better future. Today, these words reflect my core beliefs like no other expressions of my confidence in our public education system.
The importance of a strong partnership between parents and educators is timeless. I am reminded of my own third grade parent–teacher conference with my late mother and my third grade teacher, Mrs. Larsen, in Tacoma, Washington. I still unpleasantly recall receiving nine N`s (needs improvement) on my report card which triggered a required parent–teacher conference. I shuddered at the thought of attending my own parent–teacher conference as a translator because our primary language at home was Greek and my mother could not fluently write, comprehend or speak English.
The much anticipated conference day arrived. Nervously and with halting hesitation, introductions were made; and we sat down in the empty and quiet classroom. Mrs. Larsen politely and immediately addressed the purpose of the meeting and quickly began to share her criticisms regarding my lack of academic progress in several subject areas. She went on and on as I translated in Greek my numerous academic weaknesses to my mother and, at the same time, I battled tears and was sobbing out loud. My mother tried very hard to hold back her emotions - unable to speak in English and ask questions about what was on her mind; more importantly, wanting to defend her son from the negative criticisms.
Halfway through the conference my mother interrupted Mrs. Larsen in mid-sentence and said in her best, but nearly unintelligible English, “Tony, good boy?” She then repeated it a second time, “Tony, good boy?” There was momentary and uncomfortable silence that seemed to last far too long for me! Mrs. Larsen broke the silence and replied, “Tony is one of my favorite students- very polite and well behaved- qualities that a mother should be very proud of.” One can imagine hearing my sigh of relief and see my ear-to-ear grin as I repeated in Greek what Mrs. Larsen had said – her first positive comment about me in the entire conference. My mother warmly held my hand tight and smiled for the first time that day.
Days later, Mrs. Larsen asked me to stay after school. She began by telling that I did well at the parent conference and that she appreciated my translation of her assessment of my academic progress. She told me that she would spend extra time with me since my mother could not read English and my father worked late driving a truck. She went on to say that together, we would set a goal of zero ”N`s” at the next grading period. I replied that I did not think it was possible. She bent down looked me straight in the eyes, and confidently told me something that I have not forgotten. She said, “Inch by inch, life's a cinch; yard by yard, life is hard.”
This message is another reminder that parents and educators today, both classified and certificated, serve a very important and crucial role in guiding student success. Working as #TeamPUSD together and making students our highest priority, we can make a profound difference in the lives of children- every day. It lasts a lifetime… I should know, as a once struggling student who became an educator myself.
May you find rest and rejuvenation during the winter break, and we will see you in the New Year to continue our work!