Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Parent-Teacher Conference

She was at her wits end.
The mother of three sons, one a high school drop out at the age of 19.
Her second son stood about ten feet away from his mother in the school office while the principal searched through the stack of report cards for her youngest boy's records.

"F's and D's" she fumed "F's and D's. I send you to school every day, and these are the grades you get? Look at all of these absences. Cutting classes? What are you doing when you cut? Where do you go? Are you hanging around with that girl with raggedy tennis shoes? "

The dejected young man stood silently eyes cast upon the ground.
The boy's younger brother was in my afternoon art class.
I introduced myself.

"This is kind of embarrassing isn't it?"

Glancing up quickly, the seventeen year olds face grimaced momentarily, and he scuffed his shoe against the tile floor.

Her voice softened.
"They have watched me struggle to support them. I got my GED. I go to Cleveland State at night. I want to get my master's. I try to be a good role model. Yet my son's ignore me. They come to school to hook up with the girls. They cut classes, don't study, no homework. They think they know it all already. I'm ready to give up on them. I have a grandchild to raise now."

Turning again to the uncomfortable boy, I queried,
"Do you know how lucky you are?"

The look he shot me said "Are you crazy?"

"Look around this place tonight." I continued. "Only a handful of parents showed up to talk to the teachers tonight.. You mother came, because she cares. She's not here because she want's you to feel humiliated. Many of your classmates have parents who don't give a damn. They never set foot in this school. You mother is here. She want's desperately for you to grow up to be a good man. Your mom knows life is hard, but she's got your back. You're one of the lucky ones."

The mother's grateful face encouraged me to continue.

"We have excellent programs here, and teachers who want to help you, but nobody can force you to learn.
We want all of the students here to succeed. We can't do the work for you though. I get angry at the kids who say they never got anything out of this place, when they never put anything in. The desire must come from you.
I guarantee, if you walk up to any one of your teachers after class and ask them to help you, they will work with you. You have to be sincere. Nobody's going to chase you around to make sure you go to class and get your assignments done. You are responsible for yourself.
In another year or two there will be even fewer people around to help you."

"I'm afraid for you" whispered the boys mother.

I could see the tears beginning to well up in the young mans eyes as he looked past me into the face of his mother.

I nodded good-bye and turned to walk out of the office.

"Thank you." The mother reached over and touched my arm.

"I wish it were so easy." I thought.

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