Today, we have our second night of fall conferences, a great time to connect with parents, showcase some of their child’s work, and just talk about the education their child needs right now. While I get nervous each time we have conferences, I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve had a “bad” conference. My favorite conference story was when I taught in Missouri and this little fifth grader I had came in all smug with his mom. She was ready to have my ass because somehow I’d slightly little Johnny in class. He had his chest all puffed out and was ready to watch the scene unfold until I pulled out the grade book. Part of her issue was Johnny was almost failing both language arts and math. The school communicated on a weekly basis, but she just couldn’t believe Johnny was this way.
Plot twist: He was exactly that way!
So, I pulled out the trust handwritten grade book and started showing her the missing word, and I’ll tell you, I’ve never see a boy deflate as quickly as I did that night. It was like he was a big old inflatable and someone cut the power. By the time we were done, he was very subdued, wouldn’t look me in the eye, and Mom’s eyes were opened for sure.
This is 28 years of teaching, 27 of them full-time. So we take that 27 times two conferences a year, that’s 54 conferences that I’ve been a part of in my career. I’ve had a few years where we did this three times, but I’m happy with 54 for right now. It’s a big number and means I’m old. There are a lot of great memories from parents and kids and siblings that I could write about, but today, it’s about the after-conference.
For many years, around the No Child Left Behind era, we had TINA meetings, Teachers in Need of Assistance, just that time after work when we’d get together, have a few drinks, complain about education, and catch up with each other. Of all the team-building activities we had done (and are forced into doing), that’s the one that brought the most joy and connected us all together the most. Learning about each other’s kids, parents, and lives outside of school was (and is) such a powerful connector between educators. You can feel it in the building when you have that knowledge of each other and “who” we are verse just “what” we teach.
Sadly, that’s fallen by the wayside. We had a teacher pass away of cancer four years ago now who loved to just sit and chat. I think about her often during conferences because she wouldn’t drink much, but I can her laugh, I can see the fire in her eyes when she’d talk about something passionately, and I can feel her presence at our meetings. She was an amazing teacher and an amazing person, taken too soon. After she passed, the attendance started falling off, people got busy, then the sharing and mergers of our district took place. The restaurant where we met didn’t survive Covid, so we really didn’t have a place just to be. People got busy and were ok with having that separation between work and home. And in the last couple of years, many of the old stalwarts of the TINA meetings have retired.
It’s interesting because, for the longest time, I’d call my wife and let her know, hey, I’m going out with the girls. She’d laugh and many times, come join us because is an educator as well. Again, work and home cross over so you get a better feel for people just in general. Her district did nothing like this and she was always a bit jealous of those relationships. Well, the tables have been turned because she switched jobs and told me there was “an event” after conferences tonight. This is the second event they’ve had, and not going to lie, I’m a bit jealous myself! 🙂
Now don’t worry about me. The introvert in me has kicked into a spot not seen, ever, so it’s ok that TINA is not going on, but reflecting back, we laughed A LOT! We so enjoyed each other’s company, and just learned about each other as people. Covid, the current state of life, and the fact our “spot” is gone have contributed to this place that we are in. Maybe we’ll be able to make it back to that spot, I don’t know.
All I know is it was a wonderful time and I’m so happy that I got to be part of it! ❤️
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