Saturday, September 8, 2012

Whistler's Mother

It’s that time of year. Time for the first parent-teacher conferences of the new school year. Time to hear that Caleb tends to talk.  A lot. Mostly at inappropriate times. And that Josh doesn’t participate enough, although his grades are good. And that Anna is distracting others in class. Say what?

When I received the email announcing that parent-teacher conferences were next week at the middle school, I remembered a certain parent-teacher conference when my now-7th-grader was a teeny-tiny, shy eight-year-old. I walked into Mrs. H’s 3rd-grade classroom, honestly expecting her to lavish praise on my bright, albeit quiet, daughter. Instead, Mrs. H peered at me, unsmiling, exhaled a long-suffering sigh, and laid it on me.

“We have a whistling problem,” she said.

I laughed. Out loud. And was met with stony silence and an icy glare. I quickly coughed, while rearranging my features into a mask of concern.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“A whistling problem,” Mrs. H repeated, enunciating slowly. “She whistles and it is distracting to the other students,” she explained, obviously exasperated.

“Oh.” I wasn’t expecting this bombshell. “Well, she just learned how, and she’s been whistling around the house, too. It’s a new thing. I’ll be sure to talk to her about it,” I promised.

“I would appreciate that,” Mrs. H replied, clearly relieved. This must have been weighing on her mind. Keeping her up at night.

I’m really not sure what other things Mrs. H discussed, because I was kind of sitting there in stunned disbelief. Seriously, if this was the only thing she could find to criticize my child about, then I wanted to be a teacher, too. What was the weather like in her world?

I did discuss the whistling with Anna, and she denied that it was her. In fact, she seemed mortified that anyone would think that she would whistle in the middle of class. She said there were several kids in class who had been learning to whistle, and many of them practiced their new skill at inopportune times.

 And I believed her. At age eight, she really wasn’t the kind of student who wanted to stand out in a crowd and draw attention to herself. Instead, she liked to stay under the radar, keep her head down, and just do her work. Like Josh.

Now, Caleb, he’s a different story. Once he learns how to whistle, there may be a conference in my future to discuss him being distracting. But that wouldn’t be anything new. He would have just found a new way to drive his teacher crazy. He mastered the basic art of distraction long ago.

Anyway, I plan to attend the parent-teacher conferences next week. I’m anticipating a good report. My “delinquent” 3rd-grader has blossomed into a smart, respectful, sweet young lady. Hopefully, there won’t be any whistling issues to deal with.

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