Saturday, February 23, 2013

Broken Art - Seen through Parent-Teacher Night

This past week we had this semester's parent teacher night. For those not familiar with how public schools work, a.ka. homeschoolers,  parent-teacher conferences are meetings where parents have the opportunity of meeting individually with their student's teachers for about 10 minutes.

In these meetings I have the blessing of telling parents their students are great. I get to say he has an A in my class, contributes to the class and is a great person to be around. This happens quite a bit, which is great. 

On the other hand, I have to have conversations with parents who have students with poor grades. I often notice these parents are tired, overworked, stressed and saddened. Even parents with students who do well, I have noticed that there is a general sadness when I talk with them. Life is hard and people go through divorce, have to work nights, don't get enough sleep, have medical problems and/or have financial issues. This is only the parents I'm talking about. 

A couple of the conversations I had to have were regarding students misbehavior and/or poor grades. It was hard to add this on to these parent's lives. It was easy to feel like I was the next guy in line contributing to a parent's mounting list of problems. I also found that as a teacher I was in a position of power in those meetings. 

In these meetings, I made sure that I explained as clearly as possible the best way for these students to pull their grade up or improve their behavior. It would be easy for me to offer no solution or offer something that is simply not possible for a parent to accomplish with their student. That's an easy response to brokenness. It was really important to see through the brokenness and provide a roadmap for them to follow in order to bring the student's grade up.  I have the power to provide a way of success or leave them in the dark.  This is a heavy burden. 

I have over a hundred students. I'm scrambling just to get my lesson plans finished. (And write an occasional blog post.) Grading is better know as LPP (large pile of papers). Discipline issues randomly pop up, students miss class, emails need to be sent and on top of that I teach. I survive because my administration is really helpful. 

It feels like I have a heavy sword that can lie dormant or be used poorly. It's so heavy I might as well not lift it up. When I do, it's easy to do something hurtful with it. I'm amazed when I see teachers doing great things. It surprises me and gives me comfort there are teachers able to do the work of a teacher. They help guide students towards their high school diplomas and on to college. It's a great thing to see. 

Parent-teacher night is tough because it's a lot of talking and listening. It's full of hard conversations, but  I found it an opportunity to tell parents about how they can give their student success. It was great to tell a parent who went through a divorce, works nights and just found out her/his student is failing my class that there is a way to bring that grade up. Not all is lost.

A Great Teacher
On a similar note, Pastor James Faris posted a commemorative blog post for a mentor, friend and pastor of mine, Pastor Rich Johnston. Pastor Johnston is stepping down from his 30 years of ministry as a youth secretary in the Great Lakes Gulf Presbytery of the RPCNA. He's been really important in my life. I posted a comment on Gentle Reformation, but I thought I'd put it on my blog to express my thanks for all of Pastor Johnston's work. My thoughts above would not be possible if it wasn't for the work God has used Pastor Johnston in my life.  

"I was on the CYPU Leadership team in high school, did a couple internships at 2nd RP and now work with the high school students at 2nd RP under Pastor Johnston’s leadership. While in high school, I was held to a high standard by Pastor Johnston with the other leaders and all the students who attended the CYPU events.
I learned so much under Pastor Johnston’s leadership while in college because he gave sound and wise advice and direction. He also was incredibly patient and kind to a crazy college student who continually messed up under his care. Now as a public school teacher, I look back on these experiences and stories Pastor Johnston told as reference points for my teaching today.
God has used Pastor Johnston in a special way in my life which I am eternally grateful for. I’m saddened that he will be stepping down this spring, but thankful for these 30 years he sacrificed for the church and her children."
Why Hope is Possible
Lastly, I found this video to be thoughtful, power and encouraging. It's worth seven minutes of your day. It's called "To This Day." I watched it after parent-teacher night and found it was saying part of my thoughts. 

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