Saturday, October 27, 2012


            “I’m really worried about Ramon’s math grade.  He has a C-.”

            I was one of 16 teachers sitting at 16 tables in the cafeteria at 8 p.m. There were 24 additional teachers at 24 tables in the gym.  I had been at school since 7 a.m.  Welcome to Fall Parent Teacher Conferences.
            “There’s only two grades in the book for the second quarter,” I said.  “You should wait until there’s at least five grades before you get excited.”  I smiled.  But no one smiled back.

            “I don’t want him to have any bad grades.”

            OK.  The humor didn’t work.

            “Well let’s see where the C- came from.”

            I flipped open my laptop and opened up the grading program.  All of Ramon’s classes came up, and I quickly scanned the list.  There it was – Math, 70%, C-.  I clicked on the grade and the teacher’s complete grade book opened up.

            “OK.  Ramon got three out of five on his last warm-up and four out of five on his group activity.  That’s only a total of ten points so far for this quarter.  He got a B+ for the first quarter in math, so I really don’t think you should be worrying at this point.”

            Why do teachers put stinky grades in just before parent teacher conferences?

            I knew the real purpose of the fall conference was to discuss the first quarter grades, but the second quarter had started, so most teachers did have a few grades entered.  Ramon was doing a great job in his classes, and I wasn’t worried at all about his grades.

            “It bothers me to see Ramon dropping the ball on any assignments.  He has to stay on top of things,” Ramon’s mother explained. “He forgets things, and I have to help him keep up with all his grades.”

            Ramon is the oldest of three children.  Tonight was the first middle school conference his mother had ever attended.  I knew she was rattled not having specific appointment times, and having to track down eight different teachers.  Her daily emails at the beginning of the year had dwindled down to one email per week.  I thought things had calmed down, but tonight’s conferences had stirred things up again.

            I wished I could tell her that three-fourths of the students had a C or lower in math this quarter.  It was by design.  It was the math teacher’s philosophy to start the second quarter grading really tough, so the kids would put in a good effort before the holiday crash began.

            I wished I could tell her that Ramon is just eleven years old and he’s allowed a bad grade every so often.  The world wouldn’t end if he got three out of five every now and then.

            I wished I could convince her that the 25 year old young man Ramon would grow into would bear no resemblance whatsoever to the forgetful little eleven year old she was fretting over.

            But instead I said, “I’ll stay close during warm-ups next week to make sure he’s more careful while he’s doing them.”

            “Thank you Mrs. Jones.  I just worry so much about him.”

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