On the first day of Summer, I was up before dawn and off to the local coffee shop. The plan was to go in to the district office at 7:30 am to earn some overtime working with fellow teachers planning next year’s curriculum. But before that, I wanted to get in 90 minutes typing my next book Make Them Score It, the follow up to my first title Make Them Process It.

The plan was to have a quiet, contemplative, and focused morning. That’s not quite what happened. The gentleman sitting next to me, who appeared to be getting an early jump on his work as well, was very friendly, and we started talking.

bokeh cafe chair coffee shop
Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

I’m mostly accustomed to meeting parents of students at the campus where I work. And usually only on parent-teacher conference night. Anyone who has been teaching for some time knows that there is a certain dance that takes place on those occasions.

Usually when a parent and a teacher meet, there is a built-in tension. Parents either want to check-in with a teacher about how their student is doing in class, or they are there to advocate on their student’s behalf. Both of those scenarios cause a parent’s guard to go up: either because they are going to get some unwelcome news or they are there to confront the teacher.

On the other side of that meeting, a teacher’s guard is up too. Either the teacher is going to have to defend his or her classroom management decisions or is fearing that the parent may ask about specific lessons, events, or conversations of which the teacher has little to no recollection.

man in green coat figure standing in front of yellow toy bus
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This meeting had none of those marks. It was so freeing!

Another element that helped the conversation stay relaxed was that this parent’s son was not one of my students. So we got to have a more open dialogue about his experience as a parent, his son’s experience as a student, and my experience as a teacher.

After complimenting his son on his accolades (a good athlete who was out of state playing baseball with other talented athletes from around the country), he asked a few questions about how things work at school. He started by acknowledging that he’s concerned about his son’s work ethic because he finishes his homework while in class and seems to ace all of his tests with little effort. Since dad knows that life will not be that easy, he’s worried about what his son is learning about how effort connects to reward, drawing the conclusion that his son’s school experience isn’t helping him learn the hard lessons about life.

I agreed with him. I speculated a little bit from the teacher’s side and asked if he’s taking challenging enough courses that are stretching him to the next level. I shared that I was there early in the morning to work on writing my next book which led to another conversation about the importance of writing.

Then he said what every English teacher longs to hear: learning to write is of utmost importance! Dad acknowledged that he didn’t know how important writing was until he entered the world of work. Now he’s writing all the time:

  • Notes
  • Emails
  • Reports
  • Message
  • You name it!

And of course, my response was . . .


He asked if I knew about any apps that could help him with his workflow, which is done entirely through Google apps. I suggested Google Keep. He showed me how he uses CamScanner. We exchanged a few friendly anecdotes.

It was a great, honest exchange between two adults about the future of students at the local high school. Though I wasn’t as productive as I had hoped in that 90 minutes, I left energized and ready for my day.

If you were to meet a parent of a student at the school where you teach in a friendly conversation, what do you think would come up? What would you want to talk about? Leave a comment below. Share this post on social media.

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