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October Surprises and School Conferences

Amid the midterm election season, it’s hard not to think about the famed October Surprise. A news story about a candidate potentially ruining any chances of becoming elected in November. In true political fashion, there is always more to the account and more players involved than initially thought.

For years, I have jokingly called school conferences The October Surprise inside our household. Jokingly, because humor is my go-to coping mechanism for managing stressful situations, and we have had our share of stress raising two girls. 

Now, it is not the goal of teachers to surprise parents and negatively impact a child’s life. It’s quite the opposite, teachers are on your team and the lifeline of your children’s education. I am using the term October Surprise for literary shock value, and hopefully, it’s relatable to a few parents who might feel defeated after school conference season.

school conferencesConference Time 

Parents have a 10-minute window during these conferences to talk with their children’s teachers. Most of these meetings will be delightful conversations about how great their children are doing in school. 

Then, some parents will get some unexpected news. Maybe you will find out your child’s behavior isn’t on point. A few parents will find out their child is not meeting their benchmarks, and your child’s teacher is recommending early intervention services, and discuss the next steps. 

When Jolly Ranchers are not so jolly. 

At the latest school conference for my sixth grader, to my surprise, I found out Jolly Ranchers aren’t allowed in the classroom. Hmmm… I had been buying those colorful hard candies on every shopping trip for my daughter since August. Multiple. Big. Bags. 

The candies have lost their “Jolly” among the teachers and janitorial staff after picking up all those sticky wrappers. I shrank into the child-sized chair during her conference and haphazardly apologized to my daughter’s teacher for my continued contribution to the problem.

Yes, it’s a silly problem and nothing more than a one conversation fix. Nonetheless, it was another one of the October Surprises for the memory book. 

When the child becomes the advocate. 

Almost a decade ago, my older daughter had trouble recognizing easy sight words and was slow to read. Her teacher and a team of educators developed a plan to meet her specific needs. There were new benchmarks to hit, tracking systems, and follow-up meetings. All of her conferences since have been to discuss progress and growth. Now a sophomore in high school, she maintains straight A’s, and is an advocate for herself. She does receive a small amount of support, but it’s at her request. What’s the saying, “If I knew then, what I know now.” I would have worried less. 

Not everyone sees the hard days, but the teachers do.

Sometimes the narrative regarding our children’s education isn’t what we had wished. I have had some rough days as a mom. It took an act of congress to get my older daughter to go to school some days. While my younger daughter continually keeps us on our toes with her need to fight all things wrong. There really is no way to express thanks to a teacher who can read a facial expression from ten yards away and know exactly what to do to make you feel like a capable parent. 

These obstacles are opportunities.

It’s not a line from a self-help guru. The earlier you can teach your child about overcoming challenges, the more successful they will be in future endeavors. You can’t do it by yourself. You have to have the help of good teachers on your team. There will be plenty of October Surprises and challenges yet to come.  

Here’s what local teachers had to say……

Lisa Schumacher, an Academic Intervention teacher at Linn Mar High School, is one of my daughter’s teachers. Mrs. Schumacher describes struggles in school as opportunities to learn, grow and overcome. She says, “The students I find myself connecting with the most are those having obstacles to overcome, because this gives us a specific focus to work on together as a team. It creates a shared feeling of teamwork and success.”  

The power of yet.

Linn Grove Elementary teacher, Amy Smith, says, “I like to remind kids that they can do it, maybe not just yet. It’s the power of YET! Kids can do hard things.” As a reading teacher, she works with students in an area that’s not always their favorite. Mrs. Smith takes that part in stride and recognizes all kids have different strengths. It’s her job to find those strengths to continue to build confidence.

To that end, I am thankful for Mrs. Janet Sawyer. My reading teacher who helped me learn despite my dyslexia. She held her belief in me until I developed my confidence. In high school I received notes from her saying she was proud of my latest accomplishment. There is nothing sweeter than hearing, “I knew you could do it. I have always known.” Mrs. Sawyer died in 2016 at the age of 92. 

Let’s hear from our community.

Share your October “School Conferences” Surprise or say thank you to a teacher in the comments. It’s our words and our experiences that bring us together here at CR Moms.


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