Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Perspective - Lessons from a Parent-Teacher Conference

You should be more like your father. Did you ever hear that growing up? How did it feel? How would it feel if your dad was the president of the United States? How would it feel if your dad was Bruce Jenner?

Okay, let's just stick with the President of the United States story right now.

I was reading the other day on the Internet -- The Source of All Truth -- how the Obamas recently went to their daughter's school for a Parent-Teacher Conference.

You ever been to one of these? It's the most stress-inducing event any school can sponsor, including the TAKS test, the prom and the cafeteria line.

I actually don't remember having parent-teacher conferences when I was a kid. Pretty much if teacher's had a problem with you, they would take you to the janitor's closet and beat you with a bottle of stain remover and a sack of sawdust, usually reserved for drying up vomit.

Kidding. That hardly ever happened ... to me ... in third grade ... about four times.

There was one time when I was in middle school. I was taking a math class like a good kid. My teacher and I had a serious problem. My problem was I was way too honest (or dishonest, I can't really remember which).

It really wasn't my fault (said the kid who really was at fault).

When the math books were handed out at the beginning of the year, I took my book home and immediately started working my way through math problems on pages, 1 through 99 (that may or may not be true, it has been a while).

My work was not the problem. My book was the problem.

When my teacher was handing out books, I received a teacher's edition -- with all the answers to all the questions.

My first response when I realized the error was: Teacher, I seem to have received a book with all the answers in it, thereby cheating me out of the joy of solving unknown variable equations.

That would have been nice if I would have said that.

Actually what I said was: Nothing. That's right I kept that little secret to myself. For approximately three months.

It took a while for my teacher to catch on. I'm still not sure how she did it. I guess maybe she didn't believe that I had the learning capacity to make 100s on all my homework assignments and only 53s on all my tests. But I did. I was good at homework. I was horrible at testing -- especially when my teacher's edition math book was tucked neatly under my desk.

I think my teacher responded accordingly, however: "Rodney, I believe I might have inadvertently given you a teacher's edition math book. I'm sure you haven't been using it to write all the answers down and then given the answers to all your friends, including Nicole Thomas, who you wished would go to the Homecoming dance with you. However, I would like to get the book back and issue you a proper book like all of the other students in my class."

The proceeding Is what she should have said.

Instead, she did the most devious, most heinous, most sinister thing any teacher ever: she called my mom.
If you've ever had one of those "buzz kill" moments, you know exactly what it was like for me when I got home from school that night.

"My teacher said I did what?" I asked my mom, trying my best to keep the puzzled look on my face.

My mom explained that the teacher called her and told her I had been "cheating" in class. She went on to say I was going to be grounded for one to two decades and then she promptly took me to the janitor's closet and beat me with a box of Ajax.

I'm only kidding. It was actually a box of Formula 409.

That's another joke.

But cheating is no joke. And I have since learned my lesson about cheating (mainly, to be more careful about homework assignments and sprinkle in a few bad grades with the good).

So I'm happy that President Obama is attending these very important meetings with his daughter's teachers.

The story said the President and First Lady are very involved in their daughters' lives and they believe that is important to a kid learning and succeeding in school. I happen to agree with them.

Our kids will all do a lot better if they get encouragement from their parents, and family and teachers and friends. We'll be a better nation because of it too.

That and it probably wouldn't hurt if somebody gave Congress the teacher's edition. Or I guess there's always the janitor's closet.

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