After writing 146 somewhat clever and personalized progress reports for the junior high children, I had the pleasure (and sometimes pain) of meeting with something like 106 parents in the living nightmare known as “Conferences.” To say my brain felt like scrambled eggs afterwards would be an understatement. It was more like word vomit trapped in a skull.

I overfueled on coffee and candy corn most of the time, literally ducking under the table to shake some candy corn into my mouth for a quick buzz whenever I anticipated a difficult parent in the lineup. I sprinted through the conferences from 8-5 Thursday and Friday last week. My words were so slurred and nonsensical by the end all I could really say was “great! your kid is…grrrreaaaat….i think….who is your kids be?!”

It was really interesting to meet some of the parents behind some of the children…especially some of the “challenging” ones, to lean back and go “ooookaaaay THATS why so and so is like this and that….” or to watch the dynamic between mom and Dad, if he came. These conferences might literally be the only time I meet this mysterious parent known as Father. I have learned so much how important it is for a child, especially a boy, to have a strong male figure in their life. Fascinating stuff. It was also cute seeing how Mom or Dad leaned in towards the other to give a meaningful eye or exchange a glowing look of pride if I mentioned something nice about their sweet, overgrown, hormonal, middle school candy fiend baby. And some of them had some nice stuff to say about me, which is always neat. I cried twice. Good cries.

I am not a parent, I mean, the closest feeling I have is maybe older sister, or owning a few Beta fish, I really don’t have an understanding of what it means to hear good or bad things about a child I made…haven’t grown a child yet, can’t really relate. But I really did enjoy meeting so many people, because I love people, they are so interesting, and then bragging on all the things we were learning in Latin class, and telling the parents how we were singing “You are my Sunshine” in Latin (which is so cute I could cry) and discussing the finer points of linking verbs and predicate nominatives and their uses and modifications from a dead language to their living translation.

All the references I make in class to food and animals were slightly embarrassing when some parents would tell me things, and I had at least fifteen conversations like this:
“Oh yes, Miss Weight…I understand you really like Cheetos? And Pumpkin Spice Lattes? And llamas?”
“aha….yes…yes…. I like those things, but lets talk about Johnny’s recent chapter quiz…”
“—because my son made me pull over at a gas station on Monument last week because you told his class thats the best place to get chips, like the ones you buy on your mission trips to Mexico….??”
“….ummm its possible I said something along those lines?! But back to Latin…”
“Well those Lays con Limon chips are great! Thank you!”

I guess I appreciate that they remember anything at all during my class, but it would be nice if they went home and told Mom and Dad about all their SAT-score raising Latin root words they were learning, or how they can conjugate a verb in three tenses, instead of making Miss Weight out to be some Starbucks-guzzling junkfood zombie.

I’m also learning a lot about how literal the students take me, and how seriously to take my comments in class. I’ve had to defend everything from my taste in Literature to my general hate of Christopher Columbus and refusal to celebrate his “holiday,” since my students go home and parrot-repeat everything Miss Weight says in class, which they take as living truth, to their sometimes arch-conservative parents, who then rip me a new one via email. Sigh.
Thank God I have awesome administrative support who tell me things like “heyyyy Rachel…i know you’re learning, so lets make sure we say things to remind the parents that you like kids, and you’re nice people, somewhere in these emails, k??”
I bake them cookies to say “thank you for not firing me!”

I am finding, deep within all this craziness that sometimes makes me want to wear my Obama shirt to school, a really sincere message from God, saying “oh Rachel, starving kids in foreign countries aren’t the only ones that need your love…let go of your prejudices and try to understand the children of middle to upper class, conservative, Christian people, too. Because inside we are all beautiful and worthy of love and need your hugs.”

Its embarrassing and hurts to write that, but I know its true that I tend to judge too quickly and blame the problems of the world on people who fit into that mold. Republicans, mostly. And that only sinks my person, it does not make me a better person at all.
So. I’m teaching, but I’m learning, so much, too. And to love more, I hug more. Imagine such a thing. My arms hurt at the end of the day. And the cheeks, from the smiling. And the stomach, from the laughing. Those junior high kids. Get me every time.

And to close, a favorite quote from one of my girls this week, who, as I somewhat angrily passed out some papers after a long, hard day, looked up at me sweetly and asked, “Miss Weight, have you had any “me” time lately? I think you need some.”

ohhh…so young and yet so wise. And I will take that “me” time tonight with some wine and some “office” reruns. I won’t let myself grade any more tests just now, or look at any more emails. I will check out of “Miss Weight” and remember to be “Rachel.” If only until 6am.

ps got two punkin spice lattes last week, one from a very unexpected student…life sure has some sweet moments.