He talks about me at home

Last week we had parent-teacher interviews. I don’t get much uptake on interviews, maybe because I have small classes, or maybe because many of my students – who are responsible for bringing home the information about how to sign up – are somewhat less than enthusiastic about their parents coming to school. This semester was no different: a handful of parents signed up; fewer showed up. It’s too bad, really, because I love parent-teacher interviews. I love meeting parents, talking about the class and their child. I love how as we talk we can become a team, cheering for a child to do well, looking for strategies to make that a reality. Mostly, parent teacher interviews are a good thing.

My favourite interview of the evening came when a mother showed up with all three of her students. Two of them are in my class, and I let them lead the first part of the discussion. One was quite forthcoming, the other, rightly, more sheepish about his work. Their mother looked on, amused. As the second boy stopped talking, she flashed me a full grin.

“He talks about you a lot at home,” she smiled.
“Mom,” he closed his eyes, fingertips on his eyelids, and shook his head.
“He can’t quite figure you out,” she continued, as he slid lower in his seat. “He’s always wondering what you’re up to.”

I gave him a sidelong glance. I thought he might actually turn himself invisible. Across the table, his brothers smirked.

“Oh yeah,” continued his mother, “he even wondered if maybe your partner is black. Apparently you teach a lot of black authors.”

I paused to take this all in. No one in my class has so much as mentioned my overt choices about which books I introduce. No one commented when we read picture books filled with stories of people with all different backgrounds as we started our memoirs. No one breathed a word when Jacqueline Woodson’s This is the Rope became a touchstone mentor text for that same assignment. No one has remarked that the authors whose videos we watch are almost all people of colour. No one has pointed out that I intentionally present diverse voices during book talks, that I often read own voices texts for first-chapter Fridays, that I presented Autumn Peltier alongside Greta Thunberg. If anything, when I mention that I am doing this, everyone looks away.

I had almost stopped. I have been wondering if maybe I am reacting to a problem that isn’t theirs. I’m a white female teacher. Many of my students are BIPOC boys. What do I know of their experience? Trayvon Martin was shot in another country seven years ago when they were only seven or eight years old. They don’t know the names Tamir Rice or Michael Brown. Heck, they can’t remember who ran for Prime Minister and that election just ended last week AND we talked about it in class. Their world is immediate in both time and place. They are 14. I had started to wonder if maybe my intentional move towards equity was more for me than for them.

And then I found myself sitting with three mixed-race students and their white mother. I heard the question in the statement, “He even wondered if your partner is black.”

“No,” I smiled, “he’s not. I really believe that our curriculum should be diverse. There are a lot of people with a lot to say, and we don’t always hear their voices.

We kept talking for a few minutes. I shared some of my story; she shared some of hers. The kids perked up a little and even joined the talk again.

The interview ended. My work with equity and diversity continues.

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11 thoughts on “He talks about me at home

    1. I was actually quite surprised about the commenting at home. Such a great reminder to me that kids don’t always share what they are learning with me; there are many many places where learning shows up!

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  1. Oh how I love this slice for so many reasons! I got to feel like a fly on the wall, listening very carefully. Teaching and learning can be such big black boxes where we usually have an idea about the inputs and designs on what the outcomes should/might be but what happens in between involves so much mystery. As teachers i think we often don’t know the half of how we impact the students we meet. Also love the picture of this mom just spilling *all* the tea! 😉

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    1. Oh, *all* the tea. The whole interview had me grinning. And her kids are great. And yes – it’s a good reminder that since I don’t know what my impact will be, I need to be clear about what is important and follow that path.

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  2. What a great slice! I love hearing about the mentor texts you are using but mostly about how you are impacting these students. Bravo

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  3. I really believe that our curriculum should be diverse. There are a lot of people with a lot to say, and we don’t always hear their voices

    🙌🙌🙌 Thank you for sharing these voices. It is obviously making an impact.

    I enjoyed the tangent into your thinking here- this work matters. I’m glad you have more fuel to keep going.

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  4. I would love to be a fly on the wall of my students’ homes. What do they talk about? This conversation is evidence that something you are doing is making a difference. It’s starting conversations at home.

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  5. So powerful. And that’s the ultimate compliment – a student talking about a teacher at home. I enjoy how you sprinkle your characteristic humor into the telling of a serious story, a serious subject. It’s just the right mix. The scene is so real … as is your love and care and concern for these students. Carry on:)

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  6. Amanda, kudos to you for promoting diverse voices in literature. Students need to be exposed to all voices. I found it interesting that you are a topic of conversation in your student’s home. What a compliment that you are impacting his learning journey in a positive way.

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