Friday, July 23, 2010

Two Conversations

Today I had two separate conversations with two very different mothers about their daughters, both of whom are my students. Considered separately, the conversations may be trifling. However, considered together, they raise many questions, including what is the effect of the inexplicable relationship between parents and children and can anyone really understand the enduring, philosophical question of nature versus nurture.

One daughter is a handful of trouble. Her low academic scores are coupled with an insatiable desire to be the center of attention despite the social and instructional costs to herself and everyone else in the classroom. I finally met the working mother on her day off, and we chatted. This was my opportunity to give the mother my concerned opinion of her daughter which I had been assured the mother had heard many times before from previous teachers. It was going to be a tough conversation. The mother began the conversation.

"How's my daughter doing?" she asked.

She asked, so I replied, "I had heard she was a handful. Other teachers told me that she never pays attention and could be very distracting to others in the classroom. I am finding this to be true because I can never get her attention regarding the subject we are studying, and she constantly tries to change the conversation. For example, we will be working on a math subtraction problem about how many marbles does your friend have after losing some of them. Your daughter will change the subject by saying, 'I have an uncle who collects marbles and he can bring them to class if you'd like so we can all see them.' I have to interrupt her to get her to quit talking about marbles, and I then I am unable to get her back onto the math problem at hand. All she'll want to talk about is her uncle's marble collection."

The mother broke into laughter and chuckled, "That's my little girl. She is so clever and funny!"

The next conversation was with the mother of a child who is one of the brightest students I have ever taught. Her high academic scores are matched only by her perseverance and dedication to the task at hand, coupled with a self-criticism that eliminates the need for me or any teacher to get on her case. Her mother began the conversation.

"My daughter is drivin' me crazy. Sometimes I think she is on another planet, or in another world, or just plain brain damaged! If I didn't know her and just started watchin' her, I'd swear she was mentally handicapped!"

"Well, you may think that because at times she is a little scatter-brained, but she shows all of the symptoms of a highly intelligent, wonderful girl, and you are truly blessed. Don't worry about her. She is going to be a successful person someday. She already is, for that matter."

"Well," she wearily replied, "she'll only grow up to be successful if I don't kill her first."

I am not in the mood to contemplate and then pontificate about these two conversations for you, the reader. You can do that yourself and come up with whatever thoughts may enter your head.

I will say that those are two very different reactions to two very different daughters from two very different mothers.

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