Parent teacher conferences have always made for long weeks. It makes sense, since parents aren’t generally available during school hours, you have to be available much later into the evening than a normal teacher shift. I’ve never been able to bring myself to dislike them, though. In part, it’s because I’ve been so blessed by the families I work with. I’ve heard lots of horror stories, but have very few of my own to share. More than that, though, I think a big part of it is that I so often seem to get the best advice during them. Weird, I know, to see the teacher talking about getting the best advice. What’s even weirder, though, is the source of that advice.
I promise, I’m not bragging about my own great advice giving. It’s a lot more to do with the fact that I so often need the exact same advice that I’m sharing with junior high students. This time, it was my last round of conferences with this class of 8th graders, many of whom I’ve been teaching since 2nd grade, and we were talking about the final touches on getting them ready for high school, and the word that I found myself saying in almost every conference was confidence.
For my students, I’m talking about them needing the confidence to face the new challenges of a new school. For many of them, they’ve been at the same school, with largely the same classmates, and many familiar teachers for nine years. Now, it’ll all be new. What will they need in order to put themselves out there and make new friends? Confidence. What will it take to ask and answer questions with this stranger at the front of your strange new classroom? Confidence. Want to try out a new extra curricular but you’re not sure you’ll know what to do? Confidence. Needing to take some harder classes to get ready for college? Confidence.
Safe to say, there was a bit of a theme. Then I realized something. What do I need in order to rewrite lesson plans that have gotten stale after using them on repeat for three years? Confidence. What do I need to have a real talk about whether or not a student is ready to move on to the next grade or not? Confidence. What do I need to ask a woman for a date? Confidence. What do I need keep podcasting with my cousin and putting our voices out for the world to hear and judge? Confidence. We all grow up, and the challenges get different as we do, but ultimately, the key to overcoming the challenges is often the same.