I have a huge amount of appreciation by what you do. Besides being a parent, there is no other job more important or more challenging. The district and the state are telling you that you have to teach certain things at certain times in certain ways. I know that you probably feeling enslaved to standardized tests and that these tests are a major way that you are judged for the quality of your teaching. I know there is not enough time in the day to cover all the material you need on the limited budget you have with parents complaining in your ear all the time. No doubt you have a very difficult job.
But I’m going to ask a favor of you anyway.
I’m going to ask you to stop teaching curriculum to my child (every once in a while) and get to know him. What really means to most to me is to feel that you know my child. Really, really know him. Please just connect with him. Know at least one thing that makes him tick. Listen to him. Encourage him. Tell him he is a great kid. Doing this will make more of a difference in his life than learning his multiplication facts by third grade will ever do.
I know this is a lot to ask. I know you have 25 children in your class and to connect with each one is a major commitment. But maybe next time you sit to read with them you take a break and chat. You see- my son lives in a world where many people treat him like he’s a bad kid. As a child with an invisible disability, people may misunderstand his inattentiveness as rudeness, his hyperactivity poor behavior. People might think that his learning disabilities make him stupid. But the truth is that he wants so badly to do well but everything comes a little bit harder for him. He tries exponentially harder than many kids just to keep his head above water but you’ll never hear him complaining about it. He’ll probably never be the smartest in the class or the star of the show. He’ll be the one plugging along so he can get by. He probably won’t make it easy to crack through his shell either. You see, he’s built up some protective layers already but he will melt a bit if you give him time and investment.
I once walked into a parent conference and the teacher said, “Oh, Johnny. You know Johnny. He is a mystery. Such a crazy kid. We just can’t figure him out.” Broke my heart. I know that my son won’t be the easiest kid you’ll ever teach and there are many days when he is a mystery to me too. And I know he won’t be the one to boost your standardized test scores but he is the one who needs your encouragement more than perhaps some of those others do. Sometimes in a world that feels like it is against you, couldn’t we all use someone in our corner a little more often?
Kim is a stay at home mom to two boys. She came to parenthood through adoption and was a teacher and school administrator before taking the plunge to stay home full time. She lives in New Jersey. Her previous guest blog for this site was Diagnosis: Relief or Despair?