On Wednesday I met with parents all day, taking part in our bi-annual "Conference Day." Some were the parents of my advisees; some were the parents of my students. Some conferences were scheduled; some were impromptu, held while filling empty cups with coffee in the lobby.
Most of my conferences this year left me with a renewed sense of purpose. I've felt this before on Conference Day. The sense of purpose comes from the camaraderie (if I can call it that) that occurs when a teacher and a parent give their complete attention to the young person in their care. As honest concerns, genuine laughter, and quiet wonder pass between the two parties, a loose net unfurls. This net, properly discharged, can serve as a guide for the growing student, at home and in school.
To be a true partner in such growth is a good feeling -- humbling, too.
When three different parents said to me, "your opinion matters a great deal to my son," I felt wholly the burden of the educator (as distinct from the burden of the parent).
My opinion matters to the students I teach. Our opinions, as educators, matter to the students we teach. What an easy thing to forget; what a humbling thing to grasp.
Our opinions matter; therefore, we have to make sure we praise students enough and properly.
Our opinions matter; therefore, when we accuse a student of breaking a rule, we have to be sure the student is, in fact, guilty of the infraction. (Nothing could be worse than accusing an innocent student.) We also have to be sure we don't destroy the student's path back into our good graces.
Our opinions matter; therefore, when we find that a student has not met our expectations, we have to be careful about how we present our frustrations.
I guess what I learned on Conference Day and what I'm saying as a result is so simple that we often overlook it in our quests for better pedagogy, better practice, and richer curricular design: our opinions matter, and therefore, the way we present or withold those opinions could be the most important work we do.