Friday, February 29, 2008


The rooster went through a long and heartbreaking period of night terrors and nightmares when he was two, but he's only had a few of those in his three year old year. When he has them, I always find myself wondering if it's about something I did or could have controlled. Like after he had his tonsils out, and later when he had eye surgery, he had terrible sleep for a while, and maybe somehow I could have made it all less scary. Or maybe he heard something on the radio when I was listening to NPR. (I know segments about our president often give me nightmares even with my eyes wide open.) Or maybe he's replaying when I was just being an overtired *itch who sometimes forgets how hard things are for a rooster, who sometimes expects too much for a boy with few coping skills of his own.

Last night I had some nightmares of my own -- another reflection of my guilt, the theme du jour. For about eight or nine years, I taught fifth grade. I stopped to switch to technology integration the year before rooster was born. I used to think I was pretty good at teaching fifth grade. What I think about now is that I shouldn't have been teaching fifth grade. I should have been teaching children. All night I had nightmares about the kids I might have reached better than I did -- NO, the parents of the kids I should have reached better than I did. Can you tell our IEP meeting is today?!

There were a handful of kids I taught who, despite pretty successfully managing their issues and largely integrated into our community, I thought might be "in the wrong school" for their "unique issues." HA - I know; are you throwing rotten tomatoes at your screen? Are you even still reading me?

I remember ignorantly wondering -- can I really admit this on the web? -- if their parents ought to try harder to find "the best place" for these kids. Either their processing skills were painfully, painfully slow, a year or two or three behind their peers, or they could not put a pencil to paper to create a coherent sentence without substantial support, or some other such thing that I now realize was really just ... well ... what I should have been supporting them through without questioning their school placement. Now, while I am confessing my ignorance, please don't think I didn't do what I thought at the time was busting my butt to support those boys and girls. I encouraged, modified, supported, loved, cheered, adapted, struggled, and LOVED little S, SS, T, C, D, N, and O. Their self esteem mattered as much to me as anything else, and I sought to protect it as if it were my own. They did learn in my class, and they did struggle along the way. I have treasured cards and love notes they gave me in June.

But I also sat in parent conferences and tried to gently (I thought) suggest that maybe the parents were not doing what was in the child's best interest by pushing them along in our competitive, intense private school. Now, I'm getting my own tomato. Young and foolish; is it really any excuse?

To the parents of S, SS, T, C, D, N and O (all of whom graduated from our school): I regret ever judging anything about your experience, or making your school decisions any more challenging. Many of you said you appreciated my efforts, but if you wondered to yourself if I'd ever learn my lesson the hard way about how hard parenting a struggling student can be, rest assured. And know that I am not resting assured. If I could go back, I would do better.

I hear a little boy waking up now after a good night's rest. Could there be any better way to end a blog?


Niksmom said...

This is poignant and insightful. Makes me wonder how things went at the IEP mtg today. :-) It DID strike a chord with me, though, about all the times I have been dismissed b/c I am "just the mom."

Joeymom said...

Whenever I come face-to-face with some ignorant person judging my child, I try to remember one thing: what did I think about autism, special ed, and disability before Joey? I'm an educated person, a frickin' PhD... and I knew diddly over squat. This person in front of me probably knows even less than I did then. Then I get to work.

Don't spend too much time worrying about it now. You did the best you could then. Continue to do the best you can- incorporate the new info and learn and change and grow- and you'll be alright. Just remember the Four Noble Truths:

All life is suffering.
Suffering is caused by ignorance.
Ignorance is curable.
Live to cure your own ignorance, and the suffering stops.

The Buddha was a smart guy.

Anonymous said...

Oh many parallels...former teacher who wonders if she made mistakes with her who ended up on planet ADD instead of planet GIFTED...ists whom I stare at and wonder about...I feel like my daughter and my husband and I are in the book "A Bad Case of Stripes" when the ists show easy solution except to live with my child where she is happiest and healthiest given the day and time....and cheer and encourage her strengths. You are doing well navigating and coping, even when you think you