Today’s blog isn’t going to be all hyped up with jellybean-inspired hyperness or toilet-tweezers antics. On the whole, it’ll be more serious than my usual hijinx.
Last night I read Courtney Summer’s Cracked Up to Be. I planned on starting it while I worked out and made it all the way to the basement before I cracked the cover while tying my sneakers. I was absorbed instantly and stumbled my way over the elliptical with my eyes glued to the pages and my hand groping for the buttons on the display. I punched a few of these to set it for hill intervals and turned my total attention to the book.
I didn’t lift my eyes from the words until St.Matt came clomping down the stairs wearing a sleepy but less-than-saintly expression and carrying all our bedding.
“Bruschi peed on me!”
“He did what? Why?”
“I don’t know – I was sleeping!”
“Did you take him out?”
“Well there’s really no reason to now, is there?”
I nodded solemnly and managed to wait until he walked into the laundry room before giggling.
After starting the washer, St.Matt came to stand by the elliptical.
“Good book?” He was really asking: Are you going to going to bed anytime soon?
“Excellent.” which is Tiffany-speak for: I’ll be finishing this book before I even begin thinking about sleep.
“How’s your workout going?”
“Good, it seems really easy today. I’ve been on for –”
I lifted the book to check the display and saw it flashing 00:00. I hadn’t hit start. This is why I need wait until after I get on the elliptical to crack the cover a book.
“I’ve been on for 31 pages,” I answered him as I pressed the start button.
I stayed on until I hit page 97, then I had to get off because it was too hard to breathe. Not because I was tired (although I bet I was by that point – I just wasn’t paying attention). I couldn’t breathe because I was crying, because all the air had been sucked out of the room.
Before I go any further, I want to say I think this book should be required reading for all high schoolers and all high school parents. It’s only fair to warn you, you won’t all like what you read, but it’s realistic and honest.
I wandered upstairs to the couch to finish the book – stopping periodically to take some deep breaths and unclench my tension tightened hands. I wanted/ want to save Parker – to save every child like her. And Summer’s honest writing doesn’t allow the reader to keep a safe emotional distance from Parker’s pain.
When I finished reading my chest was tight and my abs hurt from sobs. I had to focus on the inhales and exhales and tell myself: it’s just a story, it’s not real.
Except, for a lot teens – it is. Maybe not Parker’s exact story, but the sense of identity tied to perfection is an overwhelming and impossible reality.
Cracked Up to Be was both the ideal and an awful book to read the night before portfolio conferences with my class. In my district, students attend their spring parent-teacher conference, which focuses on identifying their strengths and weaknesses and setting a few, specific academic goals for them work on in the final semester.
Can you imagine an experience more anxiety-inspiring than walking into a room where your parents and teacher are going to discuss your strengths and weakness – and expect you to participate?
With Parker fresh in my mind, all I wanted to do was give each of my kiddos a hug, say: “You’re amazing, you’re loved, and I’m so proud of you.”
While the actual conferences did comprise of more than those sentiments — I did, after all, have twenty minutes with each kiddo — I hope they all left knowing those three things. Because they are, every one of them, amazing, loved, and impressive. I hope that if they ever enter into a Parker-type-period, they remember this and remember no matter how flawed they feel or what mistakes they’ve made, they’re still amazing, loved, and I’m still proud of them.
There’s a reason I have the following Emerson quote hanging on the door of classroom so it’s the last thing the kiddos see before leaving each day:
Tomorrow is a new day;
No matter what happens on any given day, I truly expect the kiddos to come back the next one and impress me again.
Because they are so amazing, so loved, and I’m so proud of them.
8 Replies to “Conferences aren’t all they’re CRACKED UP TO BE”
I’m in awe how you feel about your kiddos. I wish we had you here as a teacher. Truly.
I have this book on order from my library. Glad to know that its well worth the read. I also love that Emerson quote.
Thanks, Julie. I’m lucky enough to work with a great group of kiddos. (But saying good-bye at the end of each year… torture!)
Gail, you might as well go buy it now. It’s going to be just like Enthusiasm; you’re going to read CRACKED UP TO BE and then want your own copy.
I don’t have much to add to that…I had every one of those emotions too when I read CUTB. I wish some kids could just have a bright red aura appear around them when they can’t say I NEED HELP. Your kids are so lucky to have Mrs. Schmidt for a teacher. 🙂
Yes! Near the end of the book I sat up and said OH MY GOD. This is a good one, you should try Willow too!
I’m trying to save money by using the library…I don’t need any more books. Enthusiasm was a must have though because audio wasn’t enough. I must read and absorb all the wittiness of it.
Over….and over again.
I got a friend into Enthusiasm as well…its becoming an epidemic. lol
I can’t wait to get my hands on that book–I’ve heard so many positive reviews!
Ah, I love that quote! How have I never seen it before?
And YES about CRACKED UP TO BE. All of that, including the required reading part. One of the best books I’ve read in a LONG TIME.