I never wanted to become ‘that parent’.
Really – I didn’t. As a former educator, I’ve seen plenty of them, and know how they are talked about in the teacher’s lounge.
I’m a pretty laid back person. Introverted. I hate confrontation and conflict.
And – full confession – I’ve rolled my eyes at those parents in the past.
But, sometimes, we have to become that which we don’t want to become or understand.
We’ve been pretty fortunate with our children’s educations. Despite my fears that teachers and administrators wouldn’t ‘get’ my daughter, in the past, they have.
This past year was different though, and advocating has taken on a new perspective. It’s gone from an educational buzzword to reality for us.
I’ve written about advocating before, but my idea of advocating for gifted children, at that time, was in a very broad sense – funding from the state, gifted coordinators in every school, awareness etc.
It’s now become very personal.
When it Becomes Personal
Transitioning from 5th to 6th is a difficult time, we’d been told. I don’t remember my own transition to middle school being very painful, so I admit that, despite the warnings, I let my guard down a bit and didn’t see the warning signs early on. My daughter seemed to be transitioning alright, so I waited a couple of months to call the school to set up a meeting with the counselor and all of her teachers at one time.
Because we didn’t get a single response (to repeated requests) from the counselor for over a month, despite my repeated efforts, by the time something was set up, we were nearly finished with the first term and problems had set in.
Not only was the meeting not with everyone at the same time, which I believed to be extremely important so that we could all have input and work as a team, but by this time, her teachers had now formed their own opinions of her, without any input or understanding of her background and information from us. (While some educators actually prefer these meetings take place after they have gotten to know the child and won’t meet until they have, I believe this can be a mistake. Despite how unprejudiced we like to think we are, we all form opinions of people that are hard to shake even after we get to know them and have new information about them.)
This was when we had the “work ethic” conversation that left me feeling angry, alienated and unsupported by the very people who were put in place to work with us to ensure she succeeded.
The rest of the year pretty much followed that pattern. Her counselor and teachers didn’t follow through on what we agreed to in the meeting, phone calls and emails weren’t returned, and my daughter continued a roller coaster ride that ended on a really sour note, with everyone washing their hands of her.
Becoming ‘That’ Parent
Because we couldn’t/can’t get anyone to listen, we have now had to become pot stirrers, thorns in the side, PITAs… whatever you want to call it.
I still can’t get phone calls or emails returned, but I keep making them. We started this process before school ended, and, summer vacation be damned, we will see it through to ensure that, come the fall, she has something in place with the school that will require them to sit down with us and develop a plan of action for her.
I never wanted to become ‘that’ parent, and I’m not looking to make enemies or get anyone in trouble, but my daughter is so much more important to me than what anyone else thinks of me. So we will keep pushing forward and see that she isn’t allowed to fall through the cracks and stands a fighting chance.
I am “THAT” parent because my daughter needs me to be, and I embrace it.
photo via flickr