Our school year began ridiculously early this year – Aug. 12. My summer went by fast and punctuated with
teaching summer school and cramming two condensed grad school classes into the
space that was left. Because of this
early start, we are now into our 11th week of school and have just completed
our first full quarter.
I’m not entirely sure of the utility of beginning and ending
school so early. Is it the summer crop
schedule or a tiresome need to align with the local high school calendar or
just a stubborn tradition that mandates our academic timetable? I’m not sure of the reason, but this early
start has had a troublesome effect on me.
All year I have felt underprepared, like I have been
crawling uphill to catch up with my students’ needs.
In fact, our first set of parent/teacher conferences are all
day today. This means that I have spent
the last week assessing student progress, figuring averages, compiling data,
uploading scores to AIMSweb, writing narrative grades and finalizing IEP
updates. Even though these are the
thankless tasks of a special educator, they are ones I (strangely?) enjoy.
I try very hard to be prepared for these conferences because
parents rely heavily on our conversations.
Demanding work schedules, multiple children and simply not enough time
in the day seem to keep many parents from having the type of parent/teacher
relationship that would be ideal for everyone– the kind that shares the
progresses and the successes.
Each conference lasts only 15 minutes. The challenge is cramming all of the information
I have to share into this short time.
There are academic concerns and grades to report. There are social and emotional facets to each
child to discuss. There are funny
stories, successes to be celebrated, discipline to be explained. There are only 15 minutes.
When I start thinking about how fast things move, whether it
be the school year or the crowded conference schedule I face today, I feel
panicked. How will I tell the nervous
parents across from me that their son continues to have difficulty recognizing
his numbers in the 4th grade?
Sometimes, I feel like what we do as educators is sometimes
impossible. How do I give my students,
their families and their communities everything they need? How can I teach them all of these things as
they wordlessly pile up in front of us?
This feeling of futility, I hope, will be fleeting. I lift my own spirits when I can share a
story of success with a parent.
I think about telling one of my student’s parents about how
he read a short book entirely on his own yesterday morning when he thought I
I think about telling them how their daughter leaned over to
the struggling student next to her to help him find his place.
I think about the throngs of students who reach their hands
into the middle of the hallways to give a boy in a wheelchair a high-five as he
What we do matters.
Sometimes, we only have a few minutes to make it count.