this year when parent-teacher conferences swung around, marty announced that she would miss dinner the next night. i followed up by asking the kids what we should do since we wouldn't have the dead weight around. bella immediately piped up asking what i meant because i was going to be gone too. i asked where i was going and bella said i was going to be meeting with her teachers because as mother announced it was parent-teacher conferences. mildly confused and glancing at marty for support i told bella that having a parent at your child's school (marty teaches where bella attends) carries the awesome perk of me not having to go to those meetings because we've got a for-real boots-on-the-ground resource in the building. bella's body sagged to one side and after a beat or two she said, "i work hard in my classes. that is my job. your job, a few times a year, is to go hear about how hard i'm working in my classes. that is how it works."
so i'm at parent-teacher conferences, my first ever at the high school and i spied marty doing her thing. over the years i have always felt for her on these evenings because they are wicked long days and i always hear about the salty and pissy parents as like with the students themselves, they are the ones that stick on your brain's wall like neon post-it notes. but when i saw it live i got the sense they held the event for marty. it was like a talking-gala where you got to wear a pretty dress for a rotating cast of strangers and talk all night. marty's dreamscape. worst possible environment imaginable to me. so now i feel no kinda sadness for marty who looked like true royalty and whose dance card was blurringly deep.
for me, i shouldered my core objective—hearing my daughter's teachers lavish her with praise and laughingly comment on her perpetual need to knit. one guy leaned in to me and said in a hushed voice, "i honestly think bella has done more good in the world by fifteen than i have in my whole life. i mean seriously. one day i asked her what she was knitting and she said 'hats for premature babies' and i was like 'hats for premature babies' are you kidding me.".
inbetween those gush-fests, i took in the tumultuous event and studied the organization of it all. my biggest question was why are some teachers so busy and others standing patiently by their clipboards amidst a sea of people. those teachers-in-waiting looked pretty exactly like me at every high school social event i ever attended. did that imply they were a good teacher or a bad teacher? i obviously didn't know the players well enough to do a proper assessment but it didn't curb my fascination in it all. and if i can use the only inside-baseball info i have, marty's table was hoppin' so i imagine there is at least one path that makes the good teachers a little more booked than others. i can kinda hear kids saying to their follks, "and you totally have to talk to mrs. walters because she is crazy ... and wears wild stockings ... and will say ANYTHING!".
marty told me about one of her last meetings of the night. the lady was reasonably miffed as she had to wait over an hour for her turn to speak with marty. thus the conversation began on the cool side. but marty, ever the pro, went about her task. in time the sleight seemed forgotten and their business was done. marty shook her hand, apologized for the wait and went to call her next name.
the following morning marty found a message in her inbox from this lady with a subject line of "conferences last night". marty saw that the school principal had been cc'd. minutes into this new day that followed a fourteen hour workday and not enough sleep, marty drew a breath and clicked on the message.
there are so many hidden gems in the world. professions you love. life-long friendships that keep unfolding. hope-inspiring children. new tantalizing experiences. unexpected kindnesses paid by strangers. these precious gems are everywhere really. they can be given and gotten with unreasonable frequency. this life can be just endlessly wondrous.
I just wanted to take a moment to sincerely thank you for my time with you last evening. Admittedly, I was growing a bit frustrated waiting 1.5 hours for my turn to speak with you, but as we started to talk, all of that quickly melted away.
I've been attending parent-teacher conferences for my daughter Evelyn since she was in preschool, and quite honestly, they've all been pretty much the same. She's a pleasure to have in class, she is doing great work, she participates in class, she truly cares for her fellow classmates. All of those things are wonderful to hear mind you, but my conference with you was different.
It started pretty typically with her current grade and that neither one of us had concerns about her coursework. But then you blew me away. You talked about noticing a time during the school year that Evelyn was a bit down, and not quite herself. I never thought I would hear something like that in a conference. Not in high school. And definitely not from her Biology teacher. I can't begin to convey to you how much that meant to me. You know who my child is. Not just by name, or what hour you have her, or where she sits in your classroom. And you CARE. Not only did you notice that something was off with her, you talked with her about it. You made sure that she had someone that she could turn to.
I asked Evelyn about it later that evening, and she told me that you continued to check in with her for the next few weeks. And she told me how much she appreciated that. I can't thank you enough for being the teacher that you are. That all high school children NEED to have in their lives. I'm so glad that I waited for my time with you. To hear the funny, personal story that you had to tell about my child. I could have spent an hour talking with you, but I wanted to be respectful of the family still waiting to talk with you.
My daughter is very blessed to have you as her teacher. This school is fortunate to have you. Thank you Mrs. Walter for truly looking out for my child and giving her an amazing education in life.
With gratitude and profound respect.