I remember only one of my parent teacher conferences as a child. I don't know how old I was or what grade I was in but I remember being present with my mother while she and my teacher discussed my academic progress. The teacher said many wonderful things that are lost to me now and then added one thing I needed to work on - she said I needed to work on writing my eights. I was stunned. I had no idea that there was anything wrong with my eights! How could I have an eight problem?
My mother spoke up and asked, "What's wrong with the way she writes her eights?" The teacher responded, "She makes them with two circles on top of each other rather than writing in a fluid figure eight." This was true. I could not deny it. I preferred the tidiness of the two circles to the whims of the fluid eight. "So?", my mother said. The teacher said, "Well, it's not a big deal. It's just something that she should work on." My mother nodded. She couldn't have cared less about my eights. I was horrified, however, and vowed that I would get this eight situation under control. If there was a right way to make eights, then I would change my eights.
So I did. I practiced the figure eights until they became second nature to me and I rid my writing of the tidy double circle eights.
It wasn't until college that I thought about my eights again. I was writing out some notes and a double circle eight slipped out. It just popped out like it had been waiting all those years to make an appearance. I looked at it and remembered all the reasons I had loved my two circle eights and also realized that no one was watching my eights anymore. So, I made a conscious decision to return to my original eights and lived happily ever after.
I thought of this today when I went to my kids' parent teacher conferences. Now, we know so much more about kids and what they need. In conferences, we are just as likely to talk about the kids' academic work as their feelings about their work, their peers and themselves. It is a more complete approach to assuring that kids' enjoy and succeed in school. It's good. Really. I'm not gonna lie though - sometimes I wish we could just talk about eights.