Yesterday I made a mum cry with joy.
That's much better than making them cry because they've suddenly found out their beloved child isn't where they thought he was in his learning - which was a situation she and I had earlier in the year.
But what these two incidents confirm for me is how important communication and honesty between the teacher and parents are.
Earlier in the year I was telling this parent that her child was below where she had been told he was last year and that I had great concerns for his learning. I had to take him backwards to move him forwards.
All year I've looked at this child with great concern, face palmed when he just "didn't get" some fairly simple concepts or instructions, growled when he didn't get on with it, redirected him when he was lost, chunked it down, set smaller goals to achieve, showed him a few tricks, explicitly taught him how to do something... yep... the full spectrum!
But lately it seems a little spark has ignited in this young chap. The boy who sat there saying nothing now occasionally pops out a one liner that makes you stop and stare, has the answer to a question and isn't too timid to say it. The boy who struggled to put pen to paper writes half a page. The boy who didn't want to read at the beginning of the year now tells his mum he likes it better than maths and is excited to come to reading. Now I've got to reignite his maths joy!!
Last week we had parent/teacher learning conversations (conferences). I showed his mum the testing I'd done the week before on basic facts stages. His mum fed back to me about his basic facts homework and we made the decision together to give her boy the homework for the level he has yet to achieve plus the homework for the next level to motivate him. When we spoke yesterday she told me he was loving it and I had seen during our marking session that day that he was onto it with the next level. But our big goal for both levels is to get him working at speed.
I have to say some of the other children in the class were a bit envious that this one child was getting to do two levels of maths for homework.
So let's fast forward to this week. I've been testing the kids on their essential spelling lists (thanks NZCER) for the fourth time this year. At the beginning of the year this boy was struggling to get through lists three and four. Last term we attempted list five for the first time. He blew that list out of the water this week, so I tried him out on list six and was pleasantly surprised. So I said to him, "Mate, I'm so proud of what you've done in your spelling. I want you to try list seven. I don't care what score you get, I just want to see what you're doing with the words at this level." He agreed that was a good idea and he did it. If I'd tried that in February I would have fried his brain, but now he is ready for it because his confidence has grown so much!!
I have to say that despite his score for list seven being low I was greatly encouraged as he was so close on so many words. Like I said, things are starting to click for this boy. He's that little bit older and that little bit more mature and it's starting to come together for him.
But I could never have done this by myself.
I've had support from a teacher aide in my classroom who casts that extra set of eyes over all the children (not just the one she's employed to work with) and alerts me to what I'm too busy to see at times.
I've had a really positive RTLB who works with two other children in my class who I bounce ideas off about the other children I worry about. That has been great to have as well.
But the most important relationship that I have developed to help this boy, apart from my relationship with him of course, is with his mum. It was starting honest communication, keeping up those casual interactions at the school gate with little updates and the odd email home as well as the more formal things like the conferences and the Achievement Books that I sent home a few weeks ago. Through these interactions I learn more about the child and what he thinks and needs from me, and this goes hand in hand with what I see him do in class, in my teaching groups and in his work and assessments.
Teaching is all about relationships. Relationships between the kids and relationships between the kids and the teacher; relationships with the parents; relationships with colleagues. These relationships help me to be a better teacher to help the children I teach, because I really can't do the best for them by myself.
So yesterday was a warm fuzzies moment I'll treasure as much as his mum does.