As a former teacher, I’m not a fan of parent-teacher conferences. My experiences were usually lackluster. I mean, you have this complex child sitting in front of you for hours every week in school, and you’re supposed to summarize everything the parent needs to know in five minutes, with ten impatient other parents waiting right outside the door.
And generally, the parents I felt I needed to speak with, often didn’t come. So I was basically just praising kids for the evening… which, of course, has its perks, since it’s nice to make a bunch of parents smile.
But I often wondered: Are the parents not coming because their children are challenging, or are their children challenging because they have the kind of parents who don’t come?
Regardless, conferences are even more pointless in this day and age, when it’s never been easier to be in constant communication with parents. They’re always just an email or a WhatsApp message away. If something is important, it’s ludicrous to wait for a 5-minute conference to discuss the matter in person. There’s simply no excuse anymore for lackluster communication.
But, of course, I still go. It’s the convention. It’s what parents are supposed to do, even if they’re inane and outdated.
Even Better Than a Good Grade
But they do have their benefits. Especially when you’ve got good kids, and you enjoy listening to them getting praised.
I’ve noticed patterns in recent years.
Anyone can get a good grade on a test. Some students participate, some don’t. Some have better overall behavior than others. There’s a whole lot of conventional ways to be a “good” student.
But nothing impressed me more with my older two kids than the following two stories.
A Grateful Student
My son’s teacher said he was the only kid who thanked her at the end of every class. That’s right. Dozens of kids pouring in and out of the classroom every single day, and only one expressed his gratitude each and every day. And it was my boy!
Yeah, he was an academic monster. He kicked ass in school like there was no tomorrow. He took on extra classes and it didn’t matter how many additional responsibilities he tossed upon himself. He always conquered.
And yet, it makes no difference to me. Of course I’m proud of all those accomplishments. He earned everything he got and deserves praise galore.
But I believe most smart folk with some focus and hard work can get good grades. But not everyone can be a decent human being.
The ability to show gratefulness, day in and day out, is a greater reflection of his character than any shining good grade at the top of an essay. And that makes me so damn proud.Most smart folk with some focus and hard work can get good grades. But not everyone can be a decent human being. Click To Tweet
A School Reciprocation Story
And a year later, I’m sitting and talking with my daughter’s teacher and she says something similar.
Every morning her teacher asks the students how they are doing. A lovely little tradition. It’s always nice to try to connect with students on a personal level and to show genuine interest in their lives and well-being.
But what happens next?
Well, apparently in the case of most children, absolutely nothing. They answer, and the conversation ends.
But not so with my young lady, who always asks the teacher how she is doing. And her teacher has found this to be very warm and impressive, considering that since she’s become a teacher, my daughter is literally the only student who has ever done so. That’s right. Hundreds of school days every year, dozens of new students. And in all of that, only one kid thought to ask the teacher how she was doing.
And I absolutely love hearing stories like this.
A Good and Decent Kid
Like I said, academics are wonderful. Super important. School is a place to learn information. To expand your mind. To grow every single day into a more knowledgeable, well-rounded person.
But ideally it’s supposed to be so much more than that. School is about finding a passion for learning. School is about making friends for life and having experiences you will take with you wherever you go, forever. And most of all, school should be about becoming a better person. A more whole individual. Someone who is kind, caring, and generous. School should be facilitating children growing into great adults, people who anyone would want to be around.
So I’m proud.
And I’m happy.
My kids are becoming who I would want them to become. What parent wouldn’t be ecstatic?
Parents Setting the Bar
However, sadly, the cynic within me can’t help but leap into the picture.
How low have we set the bar?
Can it really be that my son is the only one who thanks his teachers? Is it really possible my daughter is the only one who inquires about the well-being of her instructor?
Are the children of this generation so inconsiderate that it takes the simplest act of gratitude or reciprocation to stand out from the crowd?
That is extremely hard for me to believe.
Yet, it’s something I feel every single day.
My gym in recent years has become filled to the brim with teenagers. They’re loud. They have zero spacial awareness. They hoard equipment and never return things. And to be honest, the adults aren’t all that much better.
And whereas I assist customers every single day, and a handful are polite and thankful, the vast majority are demanding and never show an ounce of gratitude.
Enjoying the Benefits of a Low Bar
So yes, I think society is in a downward trend. So much so that all it takes is a few kind words to stand out from the rest. And it’s a bit sad.
I’ve had my day improved by leaps and bounds just from hearing a warm “thank you” from an appreciative customer. That’s all it took. And yet the habit has fallen by the wayside of the masses.
So, world, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on societal shifts and how people en masse just aren’t prone to treating those around them with kindness. But it’s even more worth it to remember how imperative it is to imprint these character traits upon ourselves.
Saying “thank you” takes very little time or effort. And it’s always free. But those tiny little words can distinguish you from the pack, and can make someone else’s day infinitely better.
I long for a day when it’s a bit harder to stand out. But in the meantime, let’s enjoy how easy it can be to brighten up someone else’s day.