Tell me something wonderful about your child…

Visiting some of my favorite blogging friends last evening, I happened upon one blog post in particular that stuck with me all night and into today. It was by Amy at Permission to Peruse… and it was about a parent-teacher conference concerning her daughter, a kindergartner. The conference went well. Nothing out of the ordinary… you know, the “social butterfly” and “clique” and “comfort zone” talk, and the “encouragement” of what to do at home to help with academics and adjustment to kindergarten.

I wrote a comment to Amy about how I have sat on both sides of the desk. As a teacher. And as a parent. I must say that all the years of preparation I had in attaining my education degrees (BA, Rhode Island College and MA, Boston University) did nothing to prepare me for parent-teacher conferences like being a parent on the other side of that school desk. And one parent-teacher conference changed my life…

It was for Jane. My baby. My precocious little toddler who charged her way into her pre-school like a fullback hitting the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 1. She was ready. She had watched her older 2 brothers and sister head off to school, and she just couldn’t wait for her turn. Things were a bit different for Jane, though. Barry and I had let peer pressure get the best of us with our little Janie, and we didn’t send her to the YMCA pre-school… a great little school that was a couple of minutes from the school where Barry and I taught. Audrey had spent 3 wonderful years there playing and singing and dancing and running and giggling, and Keith and Adam had sports camp experiences at that YMCA that have stayed with them even ’til today. No. There was a very progressive pre-school/kindergarten program in our town where simply everybody sent their children. New. Clean and sparkling. With young teachers who spoke with high-pitched enthusiasm. And we caved.

So… on to a clear October evening of the first round of parent-teacher conferences. (There were 5 more scheduled for the academic year.) Barry and I pulled up our tiny chairs and sat like like good little grown-ups opposite the teacher, Miss First Name. Miss First Name shuffled a large stack of papers and then opened a notebook. Jane’s evaluation. I’ll never forget how the conference began… “Jane is having difficulty manipulating scissors with her left hand.” Period. Smile.

Barry and I sat there. “Is there more?” I thought. Long pause. Then I said in my most teacher-like explanatory voice, “Jane is right-handed.”

Ah. This is what Miss First Name was waiting for, because she then began to explain to us all about co-ordination and manipulation and following directions… pointing with her lovely manicured finger to each new category of skill sets organized so neatly in that big hunka papers and notebook. It seems that Jane, who would be turning 3 years old in a couple of weeks, was “behind.”

Ah. I wanted to say, “Jane knows how to READ. She knows EQUATIONS. She sings. She dances. She helps her sister put on musical shows for us and for anyone who will watch and listen. She studies maps. She giggles. She loves Junior Mints. She loves doggies and animals. She loves Barbie dolls. She is generous and kind. She listens to her brothers and sister and soaks in information like a teeny tiny blond sponge.” I wanted to tell Miss First Name something wonderful about my little Jane. I wanted to tell her all the wonderful new things that I discovered about Jane each day. But I didn’t. All I could think is, “I have to get Jane out of here.” One look at Barry and I knew we were on the same page.

With no fanfare what-so-ever, we quietly un-enrolled Janie from that prestigious little clean and shiny school and headed to that big, dusty, chilly YMCA just a couple of minutes from our school. The one with Mrs. Harrison. Where parent-teacher conferences were something like, “Jane drew a beautiful picture today” or “Jane took a nice long nap today” or “Jane needed a reminder to share her Junior Mints” as we picked her up each day. Just like it was with Audrey and Keith and Adam.Ā  The place where Janie could play and sing and dance and run and giggle.

But… you may be thinking, “OK. How did all of this change Sharon’s life?” This is how. I taught at a high school where many of the students were academically/economically disadvantaged. Just getting some of the parents to parent-teacher conferences was difficult… and I began to realize that it may be because these parents had little or sometimes nothing good to hear about their child. Can you imagine how challenging that would be… year after year? So I began to tell my students all the good things I would tell their parents if they came to parent-teacher nights. Something wonderful. Something wonderful… but still being honest with things such as late homework, missing tests, behavior issues, etc. It amazed me to see kids asking, “Will you tell my mom how ‘wonderful’ I’m being?”

This began what changed my life and my profession. I also encouraged the parent to tell me something wonderful about his or her child. You know… something I didn’t know. Something that perhaps I would have no way of knowing. Something the teenager might not share. The answers were always amazing. Things like… my son plays the organ at church. My daughter cares for her grandma every day after school. My son cooks at the homeless shelter. My child works 2 jobs to help me with my other kids. My child loves to draw. My daughter sings in the church choir. My son is the star player in his soccer league. And my favorite one of all… my daughter has a baby, but she comes to school every day to show her little girl how important it is.

I taught for 30 wonderful years. I had 4 children go through school systems. Now I have 9 grandchildren… all of whom are, or will be, heading into academia. I just hope and pray that their teachers discover the wonder in each of them.

Now, please tell me something wonderful about your child… or children. I’m sure it’s on the tip of your tongue… or fingers.

ps: Jane went on to graduate from Brown University with a concentration in American History. It seems Brown didn’t require proficiency in left-handed scissors manipulation as a graduation requirement. Now, isn’t that wonderful?!

Tell me something wonderful about your child… was last modified: February 9th, 2010 by Sharon Couto
SHOWHIDE Comments (28)
  1. Again, I appreciated your comment on my blog. And as for your request on my child…Emma is the most compassionate child I know. She shares the best and is always concerned for others. So much so that she will give until she has nothing and I want to remind her it’s ok to think of herself sometimes.

  2. What a great post! I always love to brag about my children!

    Johnny can take ANYTHING apart and put it back together perfectly. He started when he was 2 1/2. Grandma gave him a powerwheels truck. It was way too big for him so he spent the next year taking it apart and putting it back together. I bet he did that over 150 times!

    Pea (Paige) is just a happy little 14 month old. She’s always “gabbing” and playing with her dolls. She loves to give hugs and kisses.

  3. Sharon, that is so sweet, and it’s amazing how you turned your own experience with Jane and Miss First Name (love that) around to have an impact on the kids you taught. How lucky for them to have had you as a teacher.

  4. Another beautiful and very thought provoking post, Sharon. I love your approach as a teacher and as a parent. I would have done the same thing with the preschool situation you faced.

    As for my kids. Jillian is one very artistic and I find myself amazed each day at her abilities (and wondering where in the world she got them from since I have none!) She is also very driven and loves all things pink and frilly. She has the ability to not take notice of anyone’s differences…not in a bad way. The things that cause other kids to make fun of a child with a handicap, different approach to life and even color of skin, she takes no notice of and is shocked when she hears other kids point them out. I pray that this innocence stays with her for a long time.

    Keller is truly the most intensely emotional boy I know. He is such a happy guy and when he’s happy, it’s hard not to be the same way around him. His laugh is infectious and I dare anyone not to laugh when he laughs. He loves with his entire being and needs to be touched to be assured that you love him back. Sitting on the couch together always means that you are holding hands, being kissed or touched by him. He loves to sing and dance and doesn’t mind if it’s in public when people are watching…in fact, it fuels him even more!

    Thanks Sharon for this. It gives me such joy to be able to think of and share the beautiful things about my kids. I could go on and on because they really are amazing little people.

  5. What a great idea! I’m big on emailing all parents throughout the year with at least one positive comment on their child, but I’ve yet to encourage them to contribute. I think I might start, though!

    What is wonderful about Luke is how, for a 20 month old, he’s remarkably not picky when it comes to food. His favorite food is black olives, especially the large deli kind. Last night, we let him try caviar, and he gobbled up six spoonfuls, which is more than most adults would try! I love that is willing to try any food you set in front of him, and I hope he is always like that.
    He also has a beautiful smile that lights up a room, but I suppose I might be a bit biased!

  6. Can I brag about my doggies (they are my children, after all!)?

    Ryder… my first baby, my little angel girl. Her beauty takes my breath away. Her beautiful brown love eyes, her sweet little face, her petite little body, her shiny black fur. She makes me laugh every day with her funny antics, like jumping in the front seat of the car to sit next to me, stealing Daddy’s slippers and running around the house with them (but never destroying them, of course – she’s a gentle girl), and snuggling under the table with her head on her toys, acting like a Mommy to them. I love her enthusiasm in running after a tennis ball. The joy in her face when she sees the ball always makes me smile. I learn from her… like the joy she gets from chasing after a tennis ball, she has taught me to find joy in the little things in life, too.

    My Sethy boy… where do I start? He is such a big, gentle, silly guy, and he makes me laugh every day, too. I love the expressions on his face for anything ranging from wondering what noise he just heard to just staring at me with his big brown love eyes. I love the noises he makes when he’s falling asleep. I love looking in my rear view mirror in the car and seeing his happy face looking out at what’s going on outside. And I love that when we lost Bismarck, Seth brought such love and joy into our hearts, love and joy that we really didn’t think we could ever feel for another dog. Because of who Sethy is, we were able to feel those things. I just love him.

    And of course, my beloved Bismarck… he was the smartest, kindest, most brave big boy I ever knew. He taught Ryder how to play fetch. Without him, I don’t know if she ever would have discovered the joy that a tennis ball can bring. He was my first mama’s boy, needing to be everywhere I was. I loved when Steve and I would hug, and he would stick his little nose between us to get in on the love. I loved how he would snore like crazy at night in bed with us. I loved every single thing about that big boy, and I still do. I just had to adjust to loving him all around me, rather than him being physically with me. That was hard. I still miss him daily. But I would never trade each day we had with him for anything in this world.

  7. Can I brag about my nephews and niece
    NE (nephew elder) is 10 and kicks ass in chess. He beat one of my friends who is 39 and a neuropsychologist. He loves the game and also love baseball and is really good at that also
    YN (younger nephew) just got a 4 year scholarship to learn dance at Alvin Ailey dance
    any the princess…she’s 4 and asked her mother what her options are for her dinner

  8. I teach in a public high school, and the kids in my classes are also typically disadvantaged in some way. I love them. I see their best, even when their parents sometimes don’t, and your post gave me chills. Every parent, and every kid especially, needs to be reminded of how cool they are from time to time. I could rattle of twenty names of kids I’ve taught in the past couple of years who have said something like, “You’re the first teacher who gave me a chance,” or “I’ve never gotten an A in science before.” It always blows me away, and I think how bleak a place school must be for them. I have to stop now because I’m already getting teary eyed.

    So on to your question. I have a precocious seventeen-month-old toddler, and she is the light of my life. The thing I’m most proud of is that she is a lover. She constantly kisses and hugs me and her dad. And the other kids at day care. šŸ™‚ And her doll. And… you get the picture.

  9. I have four wonderful children to brag about! My oldest was reading at 3, and is always the first to catch on to new topics in his fourth grade class. My second is a talented artist, and has cursive writing that shocked a teacher two grades above his. My third, my four year-old princess, has a beautiful singing voice and recently sang a solo in front of the Sunday morning service without getting scared or forgetting the words. My youngest was kicking a soccer ball ahead of himself while running only months after learning to walk. He is also an excellent climber, and at two can climb on top of our refrigerator.
    Handfuls, yes, but my children are healthy, strong and smart. Oh, and very loved.

  10. Hope is gorgeous & genius rolled into one. With big beautiful blue eyes blinking, she reads Harry Potter books (all seven of ’em) at age 8.

    Grace is just that-graceful with almond eyes of chocolate brown. She loves cleaning windows, jumping in puddles and has the biggest imagination of anyone I know.

    Brendan is a sweet boy, devoted to his momma. His dimples show when he laughs his head off. He loves dancing and music and reading books.

    Me? Well, I’m just lucky to be momma to these three magical creatures.

  11. What a beautiful post, Sharon! You have a way with words.

    Something about my oldest daughter that I just happened to share on Twitter… I love how she runs up to me, hugs me, and says “I love you, mommy!” a dozen times a day. It makes me feel SO good each and every time.

  12. Loved this post, Mom!

    William. He is curious and wise and loves to learn. He takes everything in like a sponge. He loves books and letters and numbers and flowers and bugs and leaves. He wants to know everything! Plus, he’s a snuggle boy!

    Alexander. He is funny and energetic and loves to get a laugh. He loves to draw and watch people write letters. He’ll ask you to write his name 100 times if he could! His eyes and smile light up a room. And he loves to go on mystery hunts for items around the house. He’s truly – a happy, happy child. Happy to be alive.

    Benjamin. Oh, my Benjamin. He’s 18 months and just a ball of love. He runs and plays and laughs and drinks milk! He loves to keep up with his brothers! He’s a tough little guy. And my goodness… seeing him start to talk now, it’s the most amazing thing. And let me not forget to mention, he’s quite a adventure boy!

    Henry. Little baby Henry. Smile boy. Henry is just happy. That’s not a bad way to describe your child, huh? He’s happy. His eyes follow you around the room… and when you turn to him, he smiles. A smile that speaks a million “I love yous…” He’s my Henry. My beautiful Henry. My wonderful Henry.

    Thanks for this… it’s been a crazy, long day. This was just what I needed.


  13. My 3.5 yo son has an amazing memory and can grasp complicated information. It shows up in his almost encyclopedic recitations of super heroes, their secret identities and his ability to pluck a line verbatim from books, tv and movies.

  14. What a beautiful post! Where can I begin with the wonderful things about my boys! Isaac is very tender hearted and loves to encourage other children. He just got his first report card of his second grade year and has all As! He loves his little brother like no other, and the feeling is mutual! Adam reads better than some of my first grade students, and he just turned 5 last week. He is very friendly, and comes up with some hilarious comments! Oh, and Isaac has a beautiful singing voice, and Adam draws wonderfully. I could go on and on! Thank you for reminding me of the many wonderful things about my sons!

  15. My William – VERY driven, loves every sport known to man and is a great helper to me šŸ™‚

    My Jake – has one of the purest hearts of anyone I know, has the sweetest, most infectious laugh and LOVES to eat šŸ™‚

    My Henry – so very serious – loves to take it all in, loves his mama with his whole being and he also LOVES to eat!

    Thanks for reminding me of the things I love most about my boys šŸ™‚

  16. Thanks Sharon! I teach 1st grade, and conferences are on Thursday. What a wonderful story that I really needed to hear…I am going to start each of my 30 conferences by sharing something wonderful. Thanks for passing on your wisdom-as usual, it is appreciated!

  17. Sharon, your post blessed me and bought tears to my eyes. What a gift you are to not only your children, but “all your children” that went to your school.

    My daughter has gone back to school to study psychology because she wants to help people. She’s doing it on her own, because we can’t afford to help with any of it. She got grants and aides and her own apartment. She has friends and gets straight A’s.

    My son is living in LA pursuing his dream of working in the film industry. He is working his way up from the ground floor after attending the Seattle Art Institute. He works hard and has a great job ethic. He does whatever is offered and I couldn’t be prouder of him if I tried.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my heart about my children. These are just the recent things. They are grown, but I could go way back, but that would take too long.

  18. Oh, you are making me teary just thinking about it! We were told Noah might end up in an institution due to his epilepsy and today he is in NORMAL second grade! He has the purest heart and loves with all of it. Carter is amazing at reading and comprehension, and is such a deep thinker. I learn something new from him every day. Grayson is bold and knows so many of the scientific names of dinosaurs- he just turned 3. Ivy just started smiling.

    I love my kids so much.


  19. I’m left-handed, I would have aced that school!

    (Juuuuust kidding.)

    I am so glad you and Barry saw the situation for what it was and didn’t torture Jane by leaving her there.

  20. What a great post!

    I actually got reprimanded by Einey’s teacher the other day because I said something about how she didn’t pass her math facts that day. The teacher said, she got more then yesterday right and that’s all that matters. Oops, bad mom – too much pressure.

    Anyway, Einey is an amazing reader. She’s six and is reading books on a 4-5 grade level. And she knows all sorts of obscure facts.

    Meenie is highly charismatic. She’s sensitive, caring and has an amazing smile. She also has the ability to find a group of friends wherever we are.

    Moe is fearless. She’s a bundle of energy who loves to create and build and figure things out.

    Oh and scissors, highly overrated. I know we’ve had that conversation with preschool and kindergarten teachers as well. Who needs to cut on a straight line anyway?

  21. Love this post! Parent teacher conferences were a thing of dread for me until last year. I’m on the teacher side of the desk for this one. I’ve had parents come in defensive for the first meeting. As in, they didn’t even come to open house and had never come in to introduce themselves, and now they are coming in with a chip on their shoulder the size of Texas. It scared me, and for a time, I hated conferences. Now, while I don’t look forward to them (I’ll get there), I don’t dread them. They’re coming up next week and I’ve already been thinking of the fun things that the students have said or done that I can share with their parents.
    Thanks for this post:-)

  22. Now I can comment from the other side of the desk, as a mom!
    Marissa, my oldest, is extremely responsible. I see so much of myself at that age in her, and I want to tell her to not grow up so fast. She loves sports, yet doesn’t play on organized teams. She is learning to play the electric guitar, and knows who she is, but more importantly, Whose she is.
    Rebkah is my middle daughter, and displays so many middle child qualities. At times it’s hard to see the positive in that. She loves music and is starting piano this week. She is also amazingly creative, and despite being told repeatedly that her handwriting is atrocious, she loves to draw.
    Alisha is the youngest, and she looks just like me (or so I’m told:) She loves animals (especially dogs.) She has a great sense of humor and can usually get us all laughing about something.
    Sharon, thanks so much for making me take this time to think about the “wonderful” qualities in my girls. Sadly, the day-to-day of life can make us forget sometimes.

  23. Awesome post.
    Remember when we got called into school when Taylor was in Kindergarten because she corrected the principal when she mis-pronounced another child’s name? And yes, the principal was also a Nun! I had one of those “we have to get her out of here moments”. We didnt and they came to appreciate taylor and her outspoken yet respectful way. Taylor speaks her mind and asks questions and is comfortable in most all situations. I hope that NEVER goes away.

    Andrew has the best laugh and is very thoughtful with his sister. Whenever he “wins” something, he always asks…”Can I get one for my sister?”

    We are very blessed.


  24. I had been saving this post to read when I had a quiet moment! I loved it!
    Grayson (3, 4 this January) soaks in everything. He loves to learn new things, and is almost too observant! He remembers EVERYTHING!
    Tate (2) is my joy. He is fun and goofy. When I am having a rough day he can always make me laugh. I am loving watching him develop his own little personality.
    Reed (4 weeks on Tuesday!) is just precious. He is growing (too fast already) and changing so much! I can’t wait to watch him grow up!
    I have had a crazy, busy weekend on little sleep and needed to remember the good things – thanks!

  25. My daughter, Danielle (age 9), is the most honest being I know. She may tell her little stories but true to her core, she tells on herself shortly after. We hope this stays the case through her teen years. (We can hope right). LOL

  26. What a wonderful post!

    My 7 year old daughter (Princess to the blogging world) – is a problem solver and she won’t quit until that problem is solved. She is a born leader although we need to work on her technique (tackling little brothers so they won’t get hurt isn’t always the best choice.)

    My 5 year old son (Prince) is the sweetest human being on the face of the planet. He is a care taker and a giver. I have actually had to teach him that it is OK to keep stuff for himself.

    My 3 year old son (Knight) is really smart. He learns from the older two and when my husband teases him, he teases right back again. He is a handful and loves to laugh and giggle.

  27. You were a blessing to your students as well as to your husband, children, parents, brothers, inlaws, and friends.

    Both our grown sons never hang up the phone or leave the house without saying, “love you.”

    Both our sons are completely unmaterialistic.

    By the way, in all other ways they are completely different.

Tell me something wonderful about your child… was last modified: February 9th, 2010 by Sharon Couto