This week is parent teacher conference week. Normally, this week is exhausting, and the only consistent use of hope during it is me hoping that I survive the week. This year, everything is different. I know, I know. This time I’m not talking about COVID(though conferences are happening over Zoom). What makes it so different for me this year, though, is that I now teach 8th grade. Specifically, I’m a homeroom teacher for a group of students who have almost all had me for the last four years of their school careers.
On Wednesday, I had a conference that still chokes me up, even as I write this more than 24 hours later. When I was teaching 5th grade with this class, there was a young man in the class who I was instantly drawn to. If you ask any teacher, they will tell you that the students who have our hearts are often not the ones you would expect. He was disruptive, missed a lot of assignments, and seemed to take nothing seriously. But, at the same time, the very first time he interrupted me, I loved this kid. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but it was hope.
Then we had our first parent teacher conference. It was his mom, him, our translator, and me. We looked at his grades, we talked about his missing assignments, we talked about his disruptions, and then we stopped. It was hope. Hope was what he needed. His mom believed in him. She knew what he was capable of, and you could see the difference in both of their eyes while she was talking about all the good things she wanted for him. For her, it was hope. For him, it was fear. He wasn’t afraid of his mom, he was afraid she was wrong. That he was never going to live up to the way she saw him. I spent the rest of the conference, probably only about 5 minutes, telling him all the awesome things I saw in him, giving him examples, making them concrete. I had hope.
We had this same conference, not exactly the same words, but the same overall message, three more times, once more in 5th and twice in 6th grade. Each time, picking specific things we had discussed before that had been areas of improvement and growth. There was hope. In class or on the junior high sports teams, he became a leader instead of a follower. He started to see what his mom had been telling him she saw. There was hope.
Then, in 8th grade, I got to have a 20 minute conference with him and his mom. We talked about his grades. They were good. We talked about his attitude. It was good. We talked about where he wanted to go to high school. And then we got to my favorite part. We spent 10 minutes, half our conference, celebrating how far he had come. His mom still talks about the man she knows he can be, and now, in both their eyes, I see the same thing. It’s hope.
Hope doesn’t disappoint(Romans 5:5). Hope(real, genuine, hope) will always be fulfilled. Whether it takes a day, four years reminding a kid he’s incredible, 14 years telling your child what a gift they are, a life time, or even longer, hope will bear fruit. It just doesn’t care about your schedule for it.