Parent Night. My school does it differently. Two minutes with each set of parents. That's eighty plus parents spread out over two weeknights. Exhausting. My first year, I was skeptical. How could I possibly learn anything or give them any idea of what happens in my classroom? But every year, I learn something vital about a student: about their life, their history, their family and everything changes.
One year, it was the poised young freshman that accompanied her mother as interpreter. Her mother had been deaf from birth and her daughter often served as her link to the world. One year, it was two mothers who came into my room. One was the biological mother, the other had assumed temporary custody so that this young man could go to a better school than where his real mother lived. It made sense then, that he seemed disconnected from his peers and I vowed to do my best to subtly connect him.
The next morning, I see my students differently. Maybe it's the late night that leaves me bleary-eyed. But actually, I think it's that one nugget of information that was shared. I have a new perspective and a better understanding of the struggles they face daily. And, yes, we can all read reports, or hear it from counsellors, but better still is the face-to-face conversation, where relationships and trust begin.
It happens every year. And it always surprises me. But empathy is everything...