I've spent a disproportionate amount of time and space on this site getting worked up about what hasn't been working for L. at school. I've taken on No Child Left Behind (or gets ahead, as the case may be), and misguided learning activities that serve to isolate and humiliate, and frustrating head butting sessions with teachers.
I've written about the pitfalls of end-of-grade testing, difficult decisions, and what it feels like to stand at a crossroads, looking desperately for a crystal ball to gaze into--the one that's supposed to make decision-making so much easier. I've written about homework battles--in all their bloody and frustrating glory, and about good years, and bad ones, too.
But I haven't always written about what's been good. Not because there haven't ever been good things about L. and school to write about, but because so much of our energy has been directed towards fixing what's been going wrong, or at least towards gingerly reapplying that big band aid we carry around with us--the one we use to patch up things so we can get through another day. When you're so used to worry and defeat and to rolling your sleeves up to do battle, it's hard sometimes to let go, to take a few deep breaths, and look around.
Last week we had our first ever amazingly positive parent-teacher conference since kindergarten. Kindergarten.
L. was excited, and ran to pull out notebooks from his desk, so he could show me his work, his now careful handwriting, his completed math problems, his stories--the ones he's using free time at school to write, instead of spending it wadding up paper balls into tiny missiles.
His teachers were glowing, their faces alight with excitement about seeing this new side to L.
He has a wonderful teacher this year, someone who knows how to walk that tenuous line between treating L. like the "grown up" he wants to be who respects and celebrates his intelligence and abilities, while encouraging him to grow and develop socially and academically in the classroom.
He's been a role model for other students, encouraging them at "check out" time after they had a bad day, or complimenting them when they had a good one.
We can almost see his self-esteem rising little by little each day; it bubbles up inside of him. It makes him feel good.
There are external factors that have contributed to all this good these past few months, but L.'s teachers were there waiting, ready to take it all and help L. run with it. As I sat there last week, crammed into that small metal classroom chair, L.'s work and folders spread out before me, I didn't see in front of me people standing in the way of my son's success, but instead, some of his biggest fans; teachers who genuinely care about his happiness, his well-being, his accomplishments.
I saw real and gloriously tangible results of hard work--mine, theirs, and, most importantly, L.'s.
After the conference, we left the building together, L. skipping ahead of me across the parking lot. I turned to look at the school building behind me and felt tears rise up in my eyes suddenly. Relief? Gratitude? Joy? Hope? All of those. There was a little worried sadness there, too, as I automatically began to think ahead to that same time next year, when we'd be facing middle school decisions, and more changes. But I buried those thoughts, and held onto the moment, beautiful, and simple, and amazing as it was.