Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"That mom"

Hi, my name is Pam, and I am “that mom.”

Let me back up a little.  My twins are in first grade this year, and they are doing great.  I love both of their homeroom teachers, and am thrilled with how much they are learning in general.  But first grade in our school is the start of “tracking” in math.  At the start of the year, they were assessed and put into groups based on that assessment.  We were told the groups would be flexible. 

Which, it turns out, was a big effing lie.

My daughter is pretty much the kid every teacher wants in their class.  She’s smart, listens quietly, raises her hand, tries her best, writes neatly, all of that good school-y stuff.  My son is also very smart, but has a certain tendency to miss instructions because he was thinking about something else, drop his folders on the floor, forget to bring home his spelling words, or glue them in his folder upside down.  He’s an awesome kid in a million ways, but not exactly a kid for whom the structure of school is a perfect fit.

I’m fine with both of those things, and neither came as a surprise.  My kiddos came out of the womb with those personalities. 

My son, although he was more advanced in math at the start of the year than my daughter was, tested into a lower math group.  He probably had a hangnail during the assessment and really needed to bite it off before he could focus.  Or something. 

I waited, imagining it would self-correct with the flexible groupings they talked about.  It didn’t.  I sent a few e-mails, but was told I had to wait until the end of the quarter.  I didn’t want to be “that mom,” so I waited.

I waited and watched my daughter learn all sorts of new things, while my son didn’t.  At the start of the year, I had to constantly remind him not to tell her the answers on her homework because it was so easy for him.   (His own homework was done in seconds, being too easy by an even wider margin.)  By the end of the quarter, he had no idea what she was doing because he wasn’t learning that stuff.  So it wasn’t a huge shock to find out that he didn’t place into the higher class on the new assessment.  How could he?  He hadn’t been taught anything new.

I asked his teacher at one point what skills he was missing that we could work on at home.  She told me that he needed to focus more and “learn to organize his school supplies.” 

That’s fair, I guess.  He does need to learn to focus and get organized.  Those are important school skills.  But if we wait to challenge him in math until he learns to be organized and focus on boring things, well, he might still be learning 3+4 when he’s in high school.  I’m just saying.

So now I’m setting up a meeting with his math teacher and I’m ready to face my fear of being “that mom.”

You know, that mom.  The competitive one who thinks her kids poop rainbows.  The one who makes trouble.

There are probably a lot of those moms at my kids’ school.  It’s a high power school district and crazy competitive.  It feeds into blue ribbon middle and high schools.  People have loads of money.  In fact, the first grade is 25% larger than the kindergarten was because so many people sent their kindergarteners to private school to give them an edge. 

I’m like, dude, people, chill.  It’s first grade, man.  It’s only first grade!

And then I’m like, dude, Pam, chill.  It’s only first grade.



Except I’m watching one of my kids learn and one of them not learn.  Except I have seen the light of pride on my son’s face when he solves a difficult math problem at home and I want that for him at school.  Except that I sat in his math class yesterday and could see that he was bored out of his skull and I couldn’t blame him.  I watched him pull himself back to attention and then fade, pull himself back to attention and then fade, as they did problem after problem that he could easily solve in his head.  Except that I know that the inertia of this math placement will only get more and more solid as time goes on and tracks become deep ruts.

So I’m going to march my butt in there and risk being that mom.

My fear of being that mom, of being seen a certain way by teachers, of getting a bad reputation, kept me from doing what was right for my kid a month into school. 

Fuck that.  Done with that fear. 

I am that mom. 

That mom who advocates for her kids’ education.  That mom who doesn’t care whether or not the teacher likes me. That mom who they’d better not mess with.

I am that mom.

That mom who loves her children fiercely.  That mom who will do everything she can to keep them from wasting time in school.  Because if they’re not going to be here hanging with me—playing outside, chilling in PJs, making music, snuggling—they had damn well better be learning stuff.  That mom who wants to make sure that all of the doors and opportunities stay open for my kids as long as possible.

I am that mom.  And I will do anything for my kids.  So buckle up, teachers.