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Published April 07, 2014, 09:41 AM

Conference time with parents, students and teachers

My wife and I just finished the season’s round of “student-led conferences.”

By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I like being a parent. It ain’t all roses, that’s for sure, but the good feelings seem to make up for any frustrations. Kind of like the Peace Corps slogan, “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”

My wife and I just finished the season’s round of “student-led conferences.” They’re one of the good parts of the parenting job, at least so far. We used to call them parent and teacher conferences where, I guess, parents and teachers would hash things out about their invisible student/child. I think it’s good to let the student have the responsibility of telling their parents and their teacher how things are going, and for the process to have a new moniker.

Responsibility is a good thing. They rise up to meet the challenge as we stoop down to sit in those ridiculously small chairs in the kindergarten and first-grade classroom. I guess that’s why we generally have children when we’re young, because there’s no way a 6-foot-2 cowboy much older than I am would ever be able to get back up after sitting in that little chair for the 15 minutes of conference time.

More often than not, my wife and I make it a priority to both attend the student conferences. That way, one of us can give the other a hand and extract ourselves from those teeny tike chairs. Plus, we both really care about our kids and their education.

It’s funny how these children who’ll talk your ear off about what happened on the playground, or tell you knock-knock jokes until you can hardly bring yourself to say “who’s there?” again, get kind of shy and need a little coaxing under the spotlight of leading their conference with their teacher and parents.

I reckon that’s not unusual. Especially if you’re a kindergartner who “got in the yellow” a time or two on the green/yellow/red traffic light behavior ratings. Or if you have to break it to your folks that the lunch money account is overdrawn again. Luckily our school doesn’t have overdraft charges like the bank and they do let the kids keep eating until we remember to send a check to school.

I like being in our school building. Everyone in the community takes a lot of pride in it, how well it’s kept up, having it available as a community center of sorts. I like knowing our teachers, seeing them around town or in church or at a meeting, and knowing who our children are with for a good chunk of each day.

The conferences went well, but the part that stood out most for me was a single piece of artwork and writing that came from our first grader’s folder as he led us through his conference. They had read a children’s book called “The Important Book,” a 1949 classic by Margaret Wise Brown, in class. The assignment was to draw a picture, and to write and complete the phrase “I am important because...”

Our first grader is important and special for 100 or more reasons in my mind, but the one he picked out to write was, “I am important because ... I am a rancher.” Then he drew a cowboy roping a steer by the horns.

I swelled up with pride when I saw that, especially since it just so happened to be National Agriculture Week during conferences. Our son did not hang his head one bit about what we do for a living. No use of the word “just” in describing his fifth-generation vocation.

We produce food. We take care of the land. We raise strong families.

We can draw a pretty good horse and cowboy and steer. And we have nice penmanship.

It was well worth our time in the little chairs with our knees up to our chin to see that.

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