Conferences are over and they went well: I had a hundred percent participation; the kids did a nice job leading them, and only one other student cried. It was the last meeting of the day and, ironically, he was the kid with the highest grades. He had straight A's, but in the category breakdown, he had an 85% in homework for one of his classes.
I made the mistake of asking him about it, and he burst into tears explaining that he had misunderstood the directions on an assignment and had only received partial credit for it. That coupled with the fact that one of his teachers had commented that he should participate more had him literally sobbing for a good few minutes. His mother rubbed his shoulder and spoke to him in Spanish, "Usted no tiene que ser perfecto."
The day before, in preparation for the meeting, he had set two goals for himself. The first was to participate more in class and the second was to follow directions carefully. He and his mom were supposed to set one more together in the conference. "What do you think it should be?" I asked. He wiped his eyes and looked at his mother.
"Don't be so hard on yourself," she said and that is what he wrote.