360. Are You Like This in School?

You nervously enter your child’s classroom for the first time. You love your child, and you know that beneath the obnoxious, stubborn, self-centered style your child presents, there is a tender, sweet, generous person. You’re not sure how much you’ll console the teacher for having to deal with your child and how much you’ll come to your child’s defense. It depends on how the teacher is coping. You don’t want your child to be abused, but you don’t want this poor teacher to be abused, either. After all, there are many other children this teacher must deal with, and you have enough trouble dealing with this hellion at home, where the ratio is better.
And then the teacher starts to talk. The child this teacher describes is not the one you have come prepared to defend, nor the one you were going to apologize for. The person this teacher describes is a joy to have in the classroom. The teacher asks, only half-jokingly, whether you’d be willing to offer a workshop on parenting. Other parents, says the teacher, need to know how you manage to raise a child who is so easygoing, so flexible, so eager to please.
At first, you think the teacher is softening you for the blow. You listen to the teacher’s words, but only so that you’ll hear the word “but” when it is spoken. Then you’ll participate in the honest part of the conference. Of course, you think, teachers can’t be totally negative about any child. Perhaps this teacher thinks that brutal honesty would be counterproductive.
After several minutes of this, there is silence. The teacher hasn’t delivered the bad news yet, and is already waiting for a response from you. Of course, you haven’t prepared any kind of response for what you’ve heard so far. You worry. Maybe this teacher does not have what it takes to tell the truth about your child. Maybe several minutes have been wasted, because your child is Lucy, and the teacher thought you were Maggie’s parent. You begin talking, hoping that something you say will start to build a communication bridge. But you really feel as if you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole.
Gradually, you come to realize that there’s no failure to communicate here – that the young person you know at home is the same one the teacher is
describing, and that you’ve done a better job parenting than you had thought. There are many sides to a person, and the sides of your child you’ve dealt with at home are not the same sides the teacher sees in school. The teacher sees the child you’ve tried to raise – a child you haven’t gotten to see much.
You’re not sure whether to feel relieved or envious. You feel both. It’s nice that the teacher doesn’t have to have the arguments you have at home; teachers have enough to deal with. But if you’re such a good parent, why don’t you get more chances to see the results of your good parenting? It’s just no fair. In my next article, I’ll try to explain what’s going on.

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