I sat with my mentor teacher as parents strolled in for their conferences. I listened as Mrs. Littlefield praised each child to their parent. Her demeanor always cheerful as she described each students strengths, both in character and academics, before sharing any details of what the student needed to improve upon. Samples of the students work were set out to be shared. She was prepared, professional, and loving!
Then in walk the parents of Brandon. My heart sinks. The worst behaved child in all of 5th grade, if not the whole school. His grades struggle, he lacks self-control – distracting himself and his classmates, and can at times be down right mean. I knew his name my first day as student-teacher after only five minutes of being in the classroom.
This parent-teacher conference is not going to be pretty. Immediatly I feel the tension, these parents have their walls up. They have heard it all before – their “son is out of control,” “perhaps you should have him tested,” “he is a constant distraction in the class.”
Arms crossed, Brandon’s dad takes his seat. His mom sinks into her chair with a look of defeat already on her face.
Then a pivotal moment for me, the teacher in training. Mrs. Littlefield smiled her contagious big smile, and expressed how she was thankful to have Brandon in her class this year. Out of her mouth came praise for Brandon. Thankful that my jaw wasn’t literally on the floor, but on the inside I was picking it up! My eyes filled with tears. No, not because my mentor teacher was lying to the parents, but because she was telling the truth! She had found the good, the unexpected, the strengths, the praiseworthy in Brandon.
Slowly arms were uncrossed and his dad began to lean forward, taking it in. Brandon’s mom looked as if hope was being breathed back into her. This was not the parent-teacher conference they were prepared for, not like so many they had walked into before.
I am fairly certain that they knew some of these things about their son. Parents know those qualities in their child and long for others to see and notice them too.
Mrs. Littlefield did.
She saw things I had never noticed, strengths that other teachers had never seen. We had allowed his bad behavior to far out shadow those talents and good in him. Inside Brandon there was good; a boy who didn’t find his place in a “regular” classroom setting, who struggled with paying attention, but yet just a boy. A boy who had dreams, who had talents, who God had created to be remarkable in his own way.
My vision of teaching changed that day. My prayers about my teaching and the future students who would one day walk into my own classroom changed too.
God, help me to be a Mrs. Littlefield. Allow me to see students as you created them to be, not just how they behave or perform in class. Seventeen years later, I pray that same prayer.
For all of the “Brandons” who walk into our classrooms, may we see them through the eyes of their Creator, seeing them as Brilliantly Made.