As parents we have all been exposed to the ‘Parent Teacher Interview’. I remember as a child dreading the return of my parents following their interview with my teachers. I knew they would hear the standard, which was always:
1) Susan’s grades are good
2) Susan talks too much in class
3) Susan socializes too much in class
Needless to say, I was a busy student and the social side of school was very important to me.
Interestingly, I seem to have similar interviews with my children. My three children all do very in school and they are extremely social. I’m reminded, once again that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, which brings me to my story about a very caring teacher.
Two years ago, my daughter (Sophia), who is an A+ student, was in her first year of junior high. Grade/Year 7, as we all know, is an interesting transition. Elementary school and its structure and teacher-driven schedules seem to fly away the moment you walk into the ‘other’ side of the school. My daughter, who has always been extremely social and usually very capable of handling her school work plus her social behaviour, found herself in this new world of self-discipline, student-driven schedules, no recesses to chat and linger and a heavier work load. The balancing act she was accustomed to didn’t seem to be working in junior high.
Report cards came out and surprisingly a few of her grades had dipped. Thankfully, they only dipped ever so slightly but this was something she nor her teachers had ever seen before. Parent Teacher interview time quickly approached and I received an email from her Geography History teacher, Mr Dowhan.
Mr Dowhan knew Sophia well and he knew what she was capable of. His email requested that Sophia be present at our interview. With a request like this, her father and I quickly agreed. On the day of the interview I could tell that my lovely Sophia was slightly nervous and unsure of what Mr Dowhan’s intentions were. Through her eyes I could see concern – the same concern I (her mother) had as a 13-year-old girl. What would he tell my parents? Is he going to tell them how much I talk and focus on socializing rather than listening? How much trouble am I going to be in after this? She was clearly unsettled and deeply concerned about what would be revealed during the conversation.
As her parents (and like most parents) we know our kids well. I was pretty sure that Mr Dowhan was going to highlight Sophia’s socializing and the dip in her grade was due to her lack of attention, etc. I wasn’t worried but I played the parent card well and let my (at the time) 12-year-old daughter know how serious this was, we were being called in by the teacher and her presence was requested. It was serious.
We arrived at the interview and Sophia was nervous but poised. Mr Dowhan began to talk to us about her marks and went through his detailed information. We all listened intently and then Mr Dowhan asked Philip and I if he could direct the conversation towards Sophia. We always knew that Mr Dowhan was a great teacher and the students greatly respected him, but for Philip and I, this is when Mr Downhan showed who he really was and the the extraordinary teacher that he is. Mr Dowhan said to Sophia, “Sophia, you are a very smart girl, you are sociable, very outgoing and a joy to teach. You engage in interesting conversation and you have a great interest in your classes. Unfortunately, your marks aren’t reflecting this. Sophia, you are better than this, you are a scholar student and you are operating below your natural ability.” He went on to ask her if she was happy with her grades and if she thought this was her best effort.
He talked to her and during the conversation he masterfully allowed Sophia to see what she was capable of through her schooling. He brought her to a place that was hard, she had to accept responsibility and then make a mature decision to make the necessary changes to bring the gold that he saw within her. Mr Dowhan is a wonderful teacher and an engaging teacher, as I said earlier the kids respect him, they have fun with him whilst he teaches them. In this instance, Mr Dowhan put on the strong teacher hat and took an opportunity with our child to set her on the right track. Mr Dowhan challenged her, corrected her and disciplined her. He did this wisely and seasoned with wisdom.
Sophia came away from our meeting inspired and grateful. She recognized what Mr Clooney did and how he took a risk at telling her exactly what he thought. She knew he wasn’t impressed with the work she was putting forward, she had disappointed him and us. Sophia determined that day to accept Mr. Dowhan’s challenge and from that day on, instead of grade 7 being a weird and awkward year, it became a year she will remember. We are grateful that Mr Clooney took the time to simply care about his student. He truly is a caring teacher and a teacher I believe Sophia will remember for lifetime all because he cared about her and made a point of really teaching her.
What Mr Dowhan did in that interview was true teaching. Yes, he is her Geography/History teacher and he helps her learn about the world but that day he truly taught a young girl how to be all that she can be. That’s why we are grateful. Sophia was given the opportunity to see herself through eyes other than her own, other than her parents, she saw herself through the eyes of a teacher who believes in her. Sophia is once again excelling in every area of school life, her grades are back to their great standing and her social life remains strong and healthy.
To all the teachers out there, may you never underestimate or forget the incredible impact you have and can have on young lives. Kids need your wisdom and to simply know, like Mr Dowhan, that you care.