Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Parent Teachers Meeting

Being teachers, both Packrat and I look at Parent-Teachers Conferences for our children as a little bit of a minefield and regard it with not just a little bit of irony. This is because of all the nasty thought bubbles that have appeared in our heads over the umpteenth parent teacher conferences that we have had to sit through as teachers. We are well-aware of the self-imposed, for the sake of self-preservation, gag order that prevents us from saying what we truly think about some of the students that we have taught over the years.

Because of that, when the twins started school and we had to start meeting their teachers, we faced it with a great amount of reading between the lines; using on teacher lexicons to fish out possibly negative things about our children. Did 'independent learner' really mean that our kids were anti-social? Did 'easy going disposition' equate to down-right lazy?

Thankfully, the twins didn't require euphemisms to be used. We were told that Jordan would sometimes wander into her own little world and it took various rounds of calling her to extract her from it. We were told that Evan would whine a little bit if he felt he wasn't given enough time at the Learning Centres (areas in the class marked for them to play learning games). All in, we are thankful our twins are well-behaved and polite in school, they are friendly and socialise well with others.

What stood out for each of them was very different, however and it served to highlight how different these two, who spent a good 37 weeks gestating together within me, are.

For Evan, the highlight of this year's Parent Teacher Conference was when I was talking with his Math teacher and she said that he had an inclination for Math. I added that it was very amusing that he was tossing addition sums at me to do while we were in the car, as if he were testing me. His teacher was very pleased and announced that he would be well ready for addition next term. To which, I gazed with her slightly uncomprehendingly and the ensuing exchange still sends me into chuckles as I write it today.
Me: "You mean you haven't done addition?"
Teacher: "Nope."
Me: "Then how did he figure it out?"
Teacher: "I thought you taught him".
Me: "I thought YOU taught him"

Then silence, as both of us were a bit awestruck by a not yet five year old who seemed to have taught himself to add and was also well on the way to teaching himself how to tell time. I am thankful for that because, then one day, he can figure out those scary Math modals that are far beyond my ability and teach it to me and also his sister and little brother. I will probably pay him in Angry Birds time and he will be most obliging.

Then there was Jordan. Jordan, I fear will always be a little bit in the academic shadow of her brother. As her teachers point out, she is intelligent in her own right. And she is learning things that an average four year old is learning and probably doing it a bit faster than most. But the problem is that she has a brother, younger by 2 minutes who has leap-frogged his age group and about to blast holes in string theory or something similar. But the good thing is that she is a girl and he is a boy. I am not being sexist here but it means that they don't have to share the same school and she came emerge as her own person. That, we are seeing quite clearly as well.

Her teachers were full of praise of her drawing ability. She doodles, she draws all over her workbooks. The only time she isn't drawing is if she is watching television or chasing her two brothers up and down the corridor. And she draws stuff quite impressively. That we always knew. What her teacher pointed out that we didn't know was that Jordan had the ability to improvise in her drawing. She wasn't just doing a good job copying other images she saw. She was copying, making changes according to her own imagination.

When asked why this fish looked upset, she told me that it  was because she had forced the fish to spit out her Papa. For full story, please check here.

Now,that  made both Packrat and my jaw dropped. For me, it was because I came from a background of having failed art exams and my mother forcing me to practice still life painting as if it were piano scales. For Packrat, I think it was a great amount of pride. He was afterall, President of the Art Club and spent his life doodling too.

But that was not what pleased us the most. What did that was having the teachers rave about how heartwarming it was that the twins were so close to one another, looked out for each other and seemed overjoyed at the end of each school day to be reunited with one another. We were also told that they were very proud of one another and would introduce each other to their own teachers. It is my greatest wish that they continue to be like that.

One of the teachers asked me what I wanted her to do more with the children. My response stunned her. I told her I didn't have KPIs (Key Performance Indicators- Civil Service Speak!) for them. All I wanted was that they were helped along where they were weak and encouraged further where their strengths were. When I asked her why she looked so surprised, she told me that the other parents had requested very tangible things like having their children able to multiply up till 12 by K2! I assured her I wasn't expecting that because I wasn't sure if I could multiply up to 12 mentally myself at this point!

So, what we took away from this was that our kids are doing well in school and they have gifts in different areas. And how did we feel about it? We felt pretty damn proud of them for growing differently and special in their own ways.

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