I had a revelation the other day. I was telling a teacher friend about my son’s struggles with handwriting and how far he had come in reading and behavior, and she said “It’s too bad he’s struggling with writing- they do a lot of writing in third grade,” and I realized the vastly different perspectives that teachers and parents tend to have.
We parents want to look backwards. We want to celebrate the growth of our children- babysteps that they are- “inchstones” as JoyMama calls them. We find some joy in looking at the growth our babies have accomplished because we know the struggles that it has taken them to get to this point. We arrive at Point F and we look proudly back at Points A, B and remember how long how long! it seemed before they moved off of Point D and look! Here we are at Point F!
Teachers see a child who is at Point F and know that everyone else- that mythical typical child- is now on Point L and they sigh at the amount of work it is going to take to get the child moved there, knowing that meanwhile, that mythical typical child will have moved on to Point O. Teachers look at the gap. IEPs look at the gap. Special eduation looks at the gap. It’s their job to try and reduce that gap, and in order to do so, they have to keep measuring the gap- a distance in which the child keeps losing- either by falling farther and farther behind, or even simply by staying behind.
But here’s the thing- we parents are very, very, very well aware of that gap as well. We stay up late nights Googling because of that gap. We cry to each other about that gap. Every time we see the gaps between our child and other children, we are overwhelmed by the enormity of that gap- and how long that pain has been in our lives.
Its that pain of the gap that is the reason parents stop coming to IEPs meetings, why they stop showing up to school events, why they give up.
So many teachers sit in judgment about “those parents”- those parents who don’t respond, who don’t come into the school, who stop answering phone calls. They get frustrated when they know that the forward movement of the child could be helped if parents and teachers worked together. I get lauded at times because “at least you’re a parent who cares”. If there’s one thing I want my teacher friends to know is that all parents care.
All parents care. We just don’t all know what to do or how to face the system. We all have a hard time balancing the many, many demands in our lives. And so many parents are frustrated because their requests are ignored; they are not provided information, because growth is still viewed in a negative light when the child is behind and we don’t know how to cope. And when we are belittled, and ignored and the emphasis is on how much pain there is ahead, we sometimes opt out in order to cope the best or only ways we know how. Some parents opt out with the help of drugs, alcohol, or in my case (at times), work. Some stop showing up. But we all care.
When the successes are ignored, when the growth is not acknowledged, when the pain of the battle is not shared, when there is not enough support, then parents and teachers stop working together. And the gap between home and school widens.
Sometimes, you have to look backwards to know how far you’ve come- and to help with how far there is to go.