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)