This morning I spent several hours at school, meeting with staff, and discussing a plan to keep school interesting for my son, who may or may not have “issues”.
I’m fortunate to send my kids to schools where as a whole they are loved, cared for, and nurtured. But still, there are issues, and I have to advocate for my kids. Constantly.
If only I had AVERAGE kids, I’m sure my life and theirs would be so much easier.
But noooooo … I’ve been blessed with kids that “think outside the box” which is a nice way of saying, ” learn totally differently from everyone else.”
Toss in a sprinkle of dyslexia, a pinch of possible ADD, and yep, I’m going to a lot of meetings about “issues”. Clear the docket!
These learning issues (or learning differences depending on who you talk to) are a blessing or a curse.
To be sure, I think I have been blessed with brilliant kids. Kids that need to be more challenged than others, and kids who learn at their own occasionally unpredictable pace.
Some teachers have seemed to think my un-average kids are more of a curse than a blessing. Un-average kids are tougher to teach. Nails to be hammered down.
Luckily for me, there is multi-generational precedent for un-averageness in our family. My mom attended these sorts of meetings for me and all my siblings, decades ago, and she kept copious notes.
My mom preserved all the dire predictions of failure in her drawers, alongside my brother’s medical degrees and photos of their beach houses.
When I get discouraged, my mom reminds me that most likely, the “issues” are phases that my kids will work through naturally. Or we’ll get them help. She shrugs it off even as she predicts that they won’t all end up homeless, toothless and unable to care for me in my old age.
I see no reason to question her wisdom.
What struck a chord with me today, were the five distinct reactions staff members about the challenges my son is currently dealing with. Such different reactions, but all about the same kid, same year, struggling with the same issues in different classes.
They were pretty archetypical reactions that I’ve seen before over the years. I thought I would share these teacher reactions in hopes of offering some perspective and peace to other parents like me. Sort of like my mom’s drawerful of old teacher’s notes bring me comfort.
1. The Accusatory Teacher
This teacher lashes out at parents, blaming them for their child’s failure to complete homework, bad behavior, or inability to turn in assignments on time. They not-so-subtly call into question your ability to parent and can drive you to do crazy things, like do all your child’s homework and projects for them for the rest of the year.
2. The Caring But Possibly Misguided Teacher
This teacher wants your kid to succeed and has figured out the solution! It involves you purchasing a bunch of stuff, signing up for a program, and following a whole new system. Note: It might also involve quitting your day job and selling meth to administer and pay for said solution. They mean to do right, but it just feels wrong.
3. The Angry Teacher
This teacher wants you to know that your kid has RUINED EVERYTHING. They were on autopilot sailing smoothly into their retirement, pregnancy leave, lunch break, whatever. Then your un-average kid had to come along and mess it up. These teachers don’t have much to offer in ways of support but they are happy to tell you all about the weird, inappropriate, disruptive, annoying, things your kid did. They stop just shy of saying “and I wish he/she would just disappear.” You might feel similarly about the angry teacher.
4. The Confused Teacher
This teacher wants to know why your kid decided to do their homework in Italian and how come they wrote an essay about the principal when they were asked to write a letter about a public speaker? They want you to act as an interpreter. They really don’t get your kid, and they speak loud and slowly to both of you.
5. The Detective
This teacher is the best advocate a parent could hope for. This is the teacher that meets the challenge of your child with open arms and a fresh notebook. He or she wishes to gather clues to unlock their talents and help them learn to leap over their stumbling blocks. They are question askers and data gatherers. They present ideas for accommodations and modifications, and ask for your feedback. They genuinely like your kid, and they listen to what you have to say and weigh your observations in with their own.
These are the true educators. Not surprisingly, they often describe themselves as “out of the box” thinkers.
If this isn’t your detective year, take heart and don’t stop advocating for and believing in your child. You will make the most difference in their life in the long run.
Photo Credit (as well as awesome teacher credit): Melissa Graham