March 14, 2013

You shine too bright to be in the shadows


We had your parent-teacher conference yesterday. In it, your teacher told us of your fantastic reading skills (4th grade level) and your burgeoning math skills and how well you are doing in your classes. She showed us your reading scores and your math scores and we went over areas that we could help you (apparently you’re only just average when it comes to interpreting graphs and charts). It was great to hear how well you are doing.

And as I asked how you were in class, the teacher said, “She’s quiet. Not that it’s a bad thing! She’s just quiet. Every now and then she’ll answer a question but most of the time she’s quiet.”

And that is what I found most interesting difference between you and your brother’s conferences. Your brother participates fully and is clearly a class favorite. You are quiet. But when I look at the test scores, it becomes clear that you could give your brother a run for his money any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Your verbal scores are on par with his. Your math scores are right on par with his. But you’re quiet.

When asked about how you are socially, your teacher told me that you are “really sweet and really smart…” and she held out her hands as if to say that you are perfectly balanced. And then she added five words that I found better than any talk about how smart you are…. “And she works really hard.”

I love that you work hard. Indeed, a strong work ethic will take you farther than intelligence. The world is filled with smart, lazy people my dear and I am glad to see that you are a triple threat in the intelligence/work ethic/personality realm.

But it does make me a tad bitter that just because you are quiet, you don’t get the cheering that your brother does. His personality and, perhaps, him being a boy, makes it more acceptable to be really good at school. For as long as you two have been in school, your brother is good at math and you are good at reading. That’s just the label that’s been placed. But I think it’s time to recognize that you are a bright, shining star in everything that you do.

You shine too bright to be in anyone’s shadow my darling daughter. May the light you exude never be extinguished.

March 13, 2013

Smart is as Smart does


We met with your teacher today. I have come to enjoy these conferences as it allows me to bask in the glory of TheMonk. We’ve been doing this for three years now and every conference comes down to this… You are an incredibly smart little boy. As your teachers go over test scores and writing samples and we see perfect score after almost-perfect score, it is nice to hear that you are doing so well. It’s a testament to your hard work and your mother’s attention during homework and your natural curiosity that has propelled you to such heights. You are a very good student. Today, in fact, your teacher gushed that she thinks you have a shot to get a perfect score on the upcoming standardized testing. “Only 18 students in the district scored a perfect score last year.” She said.

But I don’t care about tests. You are good at taking tests and that skill will take you far in a world that doesn’t know how to judge anyone than by comparing them to a mean. I think it’s safe to say that you are above the mean. And for that I am proud. But what I am more proud of is the stories we inevitably hear about your character.

At some point during the conference I always ask, “How is he doing socially?” I ask this because I want to know how you relate to your peers. I want to know how you treat others. I want to know that not only are you a good student but that you are living the values your mother and I have worked hard to instill.

Last year, your teacher told us the following story. “I sat TheMonk next to a boy who is on the spectrum. This boy had a habit of doing his work and checking TheMonk’s work to compare his to your son’s work. After a while I could tell that TheMonk was bothered by this. He is such a good rule follower that it was visibly bothering him that the boy was looking at his work. After a while, I decided to move TheMonk so that he wouldn’t be stressed about this anymore. Now, even though he sits at another table, whenever he finishes his work, he walks over to the boy that used to stress him out and checks in with him to see if he needs help.”

That story, Monkey, brings tears of pride to my eye just thinking about it. You have a heart of gold and you are filled with a kindness that I pray never diminishes. And then, today, your teacher and I spoke about a boy in your class who you have mentioned at home. This boy is a selective mute and does not speak at school. No one at your school has heard him speak. I asked your teacher about this boy and I could tell that she was very moved by this boy who has gone through “terrible things.” As she told us of this boy who does not talk I thought back to your stories about this boy and how you play with him at recess. “We played superheroes today and Joseph* played too. His superpower was superhuman strength.” I asked you how you knew what his superpower was. “I just went up to him and asked him what he wanted his superpower to be and then I started listing possible powers until he nodded yes.”

You shared this so matter of fact. And as I learned that this boy has had “terrible things” happen to him it made me tear up again at how much your friendship must mean to him. You give him a voice, son. You tell him that he matters. And while you probably don’t realize the true impact your friendship means to a boy who chooses not to speak, I gave you an extra kiss tonight at bed and I told you how proud I am of you.

Your teacher is right. You are a great test taker. You’re kicking ass in the test of life.

(* not his real name)


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: