Had a chance meeting with a parent this weekend. As I was walking out of the Holiday Bazaar at the high school on Saturday with two wreaths from the CHS choir, a lady jumped out of her van asked me if there were more wreaths available inside. I told her yes, and as we moved to go our separate ways, we both realized we had met before. Open house. I have her son John (name changed) in class. And with that, we both momentarily suspended our separate ways and paused to talk.
We only talked for a moment. I began by thanking her for her signature and comments on the recently returned portfolio. And she continued by sharing a discussion from earlier in the day with John regarding school and the role of choices and character. Unhappy with his present performance, she shared her parental frustrations with me, hoping that I would see a turn around with his commitment to his learning. Seeking to reassure her and ease her feelings of frustration, I intimated that I believed he would find his way. Truly. And with that, we shook hands, thanked each other, and resumed our days.
It’s funny how when I engage parents–formally and informally–about their kids it rarely has anything to do with matters of curriculum. More often than not, our discussions focus on matters of character, on matters beyond the scope of my language arts curriculum. We generally talk about the qualities of character that their teen is developing as he/she grows, matures into adulthood.
Now, that is not to say that this is true for all parents. To be sure, some strongly believe that my job is to teach LA and only LA, that character is out of bounds, beyond my purview as a teacher. And I get it, and I agree–to a point. My job is not to teach the qualities in the graphic above. I am not sure they can or should be taught in the traditional sense. No test over that at the end of the semester. But there will be a “test” eventually. For each.
And so, as I prepare my kids for school tests, I also prepare them for life tests, trials that will that call into action the various traits on numerous occasions over the course of their lives. But the “preparation” I provide is not didactic; I do not “teach” them resilience. I provide them with opportunities to discover and develop that part of their character. I suppose on some level that happens in all classrooms, even traditional, learn-from-the-grade classrooms. But, I think the 180 difference brings into clear focus that which should be at the center: the kid. Yes, I want them to learn LA and I will work hard to that end (that’s part of being a dedicated teacher), but I also want them to learn and to discover themselves. And so I give them opportunity to find and foster those qualities. For down the road, I believe that is what will truly matter.
Happy Monday, all.