David and I sit across from Dora’s first grade teacher, a middle-aged woman whose online bio highlights a recent career switch from Tech industry Sales to teaching elementary school. The empty classroom in which we are seated smells like newly shaved pencils and bursts with primary colors. There are books and maps and soft rugs and lava lamps and tiny terrariums. This classroom is an open-armed invitation to Love Life.
This might be why I had imagined someone different presiding here, someone brimming with joy to have been liberated from meeting their monthly numbers, thrilled to Help The Children. Instead, Mrs. D is somehow the most serious elementary school teacher I have ever met. This is especially impressive given that the three of us are sitting across from each other knees-up-to-our-chins in toddler-sized chairs.
We are optimistic for our first parent/teacher conference, eager to hear how Dora is flourishing in her first few months of first grade at this small, sweet school. But not long after she opens her mouth I find myself scanning her words for something positive, something good to hang on to, anything to offset the concern written on her face. Didn’t she know that Areas For Development are always delivered with Strengths? At least one Strength? “Dora is an excellent breather?”
Here are the only words I remember:
“Honestly, I just don’t know how much of the lessons your daughter is taking in. She just sort of … flits around in the background.” She makes a motion with her hand and her head, the same motion you’d make to dismiss someone who is off in la-la land.
“Well — she has a very active imagination. She likes to tell stories –,” I stop, feeling stupid.
David picks up, “Yes, sometimes she needs time to tell stories, or look at books. She loves stories.” Then he stops, too, because we hear ourselves through Mrs. D’s serious ears.
To this day I have no recollection of what else was said except that in parting, Mrs. D suggests that cutting sugar from Dora’s diet might make her less active, adding, “I noticed she gets a brownie in her lunch on Fridays.”
I regale David with should-have-saids all the way home: I noticed your LinkedIn profile shows you’ve never held a job for more than two years. I noticed the children really miss their kindergarten teacher. I noticed you already seem to be quite familiar with brownies.
“Now, honey.” David says. “It’s just one data point.”
He’s right, of course. I’m being a total bitch, but the punching feeling loves it.