I've been encouraged not to talk about it but I also can't keep this quiet any longer. My heart is breaking and I know that other moms, other teachers have this pain in their lives too.
It's been a long time....
It has been a long time since I have blogged.
A long time since I have created a new resource.
A long time since I have done.... (the list could go on for miles) because ...
1. I'm a woman and we're great at self-guilt.
2. I'm a mom so I'm an expert at self-guilt.
3. I'm exhausted so great at self-guilt.
Chances are, if you are a mom you can relate.
My son is 11 years old. He is in fifth grade. Extensive testing and data has determined that he can't add past sums of nine. He is reading at a third grade level.
And I'm a teacher.
I feel like I've failed him. So because of that and because I love him, I'm the longest standing member of his SPED team.
I am his advocate. His relentless, diehard, persistent advocate and I will never, ever give up until he gets what he needs.
I struggled in school. I remember it well. I had extra help with reading (we called it "Title One" back then). In high school I stayed after school, had a tutor, and I still remember Mrs. "I Can't Remember her Name Because the Trauma is Too Great" said to me "I don't know what else to do for you. I don't know how to make you understand this. I just don't get why you're not getting this?!"
If someone could have ripped my heart out, my dignity, my self respect-she did it in that moment. In that moment also, I dug my heels in. I was never, ever going to learn math and no one was ever going to teach me. Ever.
Fast forward 20+ years and I'm sitting in meeting after meeting after meeting hearing the same things about my own son.
And I'm a teacher.
It hurts like hell to hear those things. Again.
He's not progressing and we're at the end of the line. There's not much academic support that I can do at home, despite how much his teachers criticize me for it, when I am doing all I can to support the emotional effects of the school day. All those feelings he keeps in that they don't see....he saves for me and it starts the second I pick him up in the car. How painful it is to hear day after day after day.
It breaks your heart and tears at your soul bit by bit because no matter how big he gets, or how tall he grows, I will still remember how he stroked my cheek when he drank as an infant. I'll always remember the "Mammma, Mammma" over and over as he jumped up and down in his crib. To them he's another student. To me, he's my son. I don't remember my life before him. I guess it didn't really matter as much.
I made a lot of promises to this little guy when he was connected to life support in NICU, when I rocked him as an infant, when I dropped him off at kindergarten, when I tuck him in after a night of crying and crying over homework that's just impossible for him.
But there's one I promise I won't ever break. I'll always be his biggest fan, his strongest supporter, his strength when it feels like the whole world has turned their back.
What happens when you've dedicated your adult life to serving students in one public school setting and another public school setting is failing your own child?
How do you move forward and act like it's all going to be ok?
What if the school system that is failing your child is doing all that they can and they are good teachers but....your child still isn't making effective progress?
I have asked myself these questions millions and millions of times over this past year.
It has kept me awake many, many nights.
I have shed more tears over it than I ever have in my life.
Friends, what happens when you start to lose the love of the job?
I talked to my husband about it and he said we need my paycheck. I never considered my job a paycheck. I know that sounds stupid but it never really was about the money. But really.....does anyone ever enter teaching for the money?!
I'll admit feeling angry at him. I wanted him to hug me and say that he understood. That he understood my anguish and it would be ok and I that would find another career path and it would be o.k. But he didn't and I felt stuck.
So now what?
I went into my classroom on a Saturday. I pulled into the empty parking lot, pulled my badge over my head and heard the familiar click as I opened those heavy school doors.
The smell of construction paper and crayons filled the hallways even in the dark. When I put on the lights I took more time to look at the projects hung on the walls. I never really took the time to truly look at them before. Starting with the third grade classrooms, I read their thoughts on growth mindset. Recognizing the names and even the handwriting, of previous students it made me smile. As I moved down the hall to the reading rooms, tucked in the corner, it reminded me of my son and the many hours he spends reading and trying to keep up. The second grade classrooms were next. The snowmen projects were adorable and their writing, just a bit larger reminds me of all the growth and progress they will make as the year continues on.
My classroom was the last door at the end of the hall. Two projects had fallen off the wall. I had hung them up at least 5 times before I left Friday!
I walked in but didn't turn on the lights. Two large windows lit up the classroom well. There was a glove on the floor and snow boots that never made it in the cubby. I found myself picking them up and mumbling the students' names and then stopping myself. No....this was "their job". I would talk to them about this come Monday AM.
I looked around the classroom and took it all in: the anchor charts on the wall, the books on the bookshelf, the students' book bins filled with books. I walked around the student tables and saw their pencil boxes, stacked neatly and the tiny chairs pushed in. I sat down in one of the chairs.
And just like that....out of nowhere....
The tears poured down my face.
After 20 years this is still home.
I can't imagine myself anywhere else.
These kids drive me bonkers. They leave their gloves on the floor and don't put things away. They don't listen all the time. They need reminders. But...
I love them.
They are my family. I spend as much time with them, if not more, than my own family.
I look over at one student's spot and the level book he is reading is a level 10. He started the school year considered "at risk" and flagged for reading support, entering first grade at not even a level 3."
I'm sitting in the chair of a student who wouldn't talk for most of the year and now I can't get him to stop.
As a sit here I'm starting to realize that the work I do inside this room....matters.
It matters to my students.
It matters to their parents.
And most of all.....it matters to me.
I can't imagine walking away.
I'm still hurt.
I'm still angry.
I'm still very, very sad.
I can't change the way things are.
My son has dyslexia and that won't change.
But what I can change is sitting right in front of me.
These little people think I get up in the morning and hang the sun.
All I can do every day is my very best.
That's all they will ever ask of me. And in turn, all I will ever ask of them.
And what if, we all did our very best?
I think that's good enough.
I think we are all good enough.
And I don't have any guilt about that.
I love teaching....still.
And just like anything in life...sometimes it has let me down.
Sometimes it has made me angry.
Sometimes it has made me feel defeated.
But more often than not, it has been a gift.
Every day I learn something new. Every day I'm better than I was the day before and for that I am grateful.
I am grateful to be a public school teacher and honored to be one. It is a job not meant for the weak of heart. It has done much over the years to make me waiver.
But....I am strong.
And my love for the children and my love for teaching is even stronger.
I hope that if you have those times when the tide feels high
that you can hold on and weather the storm.
Because usually after every storm there is beauty to be found....
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