Celebrating with Ruth Ayers and others who take a moment and celebrate something, here. Thank you!


This week I celebrate grace. It is in the tiny places of my day when I slow down and let it in. When I stop long enough to breathe and let things go the way they will.

I had a long and exhausting parent conference week last week. It was successful, and I tried (for the first time) student-led conferences. They were informative on so many levels. However, the week ended on a sour note with a parent who was very unhappy with me. I felt horrible, almost devastated (but not quite.) My relationships with the families I serve are very important to me, and I take a lot of pride in them. When they go south, which is a rarity, I feel lost and disconnected. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out why, and what I could have done differently. I usually vacillate between “It is all their fault and I have done NOTHING wrong,” to “It takes two to tango and you need to step up and take responsibility for your part in the problem.” And then I muddle around in the in-between spaces. For a good part of a day. Or more. This is an energy-sucker.

About those student-led conferences… wow. I don’t think I will ever go back. The first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t so tired each evening, at least not in the way that I usually am after a day of talking and thinking about each student in front of their parents. Because the student had to take the lead, I sat and observed. Beforehand, I created a checklist of some things I wanted them to cover about how our day goes, and then I sat back and let them share. I was present and remembered to breathe. I listened carefully. And I gained a lot of insight.

I now understand that B finds it difficult to speak in sentences because he and his mother chirp at each other, in a short-hand version of speech. This primary relationship reinforces short blurts. No wonder. I watched V have difficulty expressing herself to her mom in many of the same ways she struggles with me. Got it. And I saw the authenticity with which J’s mom listened to her and responded with honesty. Yes, her insightfulness in our classroom is no accident.

I admired the way that so many of my students were very honest about their reading lives. And many of them shared that although they didn’t share a lot in whole group discussions, they would if some of the louder voices could leave some room for the quiet ones. I didn’t realize that, although it sounds obvious. Started working on that this past week. Step up-step back (thanks Janet and Susan!)… softer voices step up, louder ones take a step back. Let’s see how many more we can hear from. It is going to take time, but it was a good start.

The end of this week brought the sour-note-parent and I together again, and it was the polar opposite of our previous encounter. We had a chance to talk and focus on the child and her progress, and it was a beautiful half hour. What changed? I couldn’t tell you. But I think grace was present. It is often about grace, isn’t it?



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7 responses to “Grace

  1. What a beautiful post! Loved reading about the student-led conferences and all the things you learned as you listened to your students. Also love the step up step back idea. I need to try that in a couple of my college classes! So glad you had another chance to communicate with the sour-note parent and things turned out so differently. I could so relate to your thought process after discovering that a parent was so upset with you!

  2. I totally get it when one sour parent encounter can send us spiraling into a funk. So glad that your sour note changed into something beautiful by the end of the week. Love these lines about grace: “It (grace) is in the tiny places of my day when I slow down and let it in. When I stop long enough to breathe and let things go the way they will.” What jumped out for me me was let things go in the way they will (not the way I want). Congrats on the student led conferences! It’s never easy to try something new.

  3. We have student-led conferences at school also, and you’ve nailed it. One learns so much from watching and listening. I love the examples you gave, and they will inform your teaching won’t they? Sorry for the upset with the parent. Some days it probably isn’t a good time to meet, & then you turned it around, with grace I imagine, and helped the relationship. Good to celebrate that for sure!

  4. I love a happy ending. But it was no small feat. Those bad moments can overpower all of the good. Like you say, sapping the energy out of everything. But it turned, what a tribute to you and this parent. You left space for that parent to come back and reconnect. Building relationships isn’t easy especially when something so important is at stake. Great post Cathy, thanks for sharing this.

  5. I too loved hearing the details of your student led conferences. And I appreciated your observation that your felt less exhausted. An important piece. So much we can learn by watching students interact with their parents.

  6. This is exquisitely crafted, Cathy. You make me experience the tension by sandwiching your celebrations between the rough parent conference story. It is about grace — always about grace. Sometimes it is about waiting and trusting it will cover us when the time comes. Thank you for celebrating today.

  7. I can so relate to your thoughts and concerns over times when it’s less than wonderful with a parent. We care SO very much about our students, it’s hard when parent’s don’t see that. I too love the grace “sandwich”! Glad to at last discover your blog. Follower!

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