Sometimes less is more and overdoing something is the same as undoing what you’ve tried to do in the first place. This lesson is so important to understand and so very hard to learn. In a time where we think it’s okay to demand people hear the point we are trying to make, over pushing and over talking are actually closing people off to the ideas we are so desperately trying to get across. Our approach along with our tone are key when it comes to capturing our audience. Words like I demand will only turn the person off to what you are about to say. When you use fighting words and you approach others looking to bring a fight, you will get a fight back. Toddlers demand. Adults talk.
So what makes me so sure I know this is right? It wasn’t too long ago that I spent years of my life in school meetings demanding the school do what was right. My son had accommodations that certain teachers refused to follow and I was going to demand they do it or else. Or else what? They took it out on my kid, they still wouldn’t adhere to the plan and I had a fight with the school for 4 long years. All my time and energy went into sabotaging those years for myself. I certainly didn’t get the results I intended but I sure made enemies along the way. So what did I learn? I learned that an approach that works better sounds something like this…”I don’t have all the answers but I am willing to work with you to find some solutions.” Can you see the difference?
If anyone learns anything from my own misfortune then I will be grateful. Be mindful about the words you use. Sometimes too strong is not the best choice. Everyday is a chance to grow and be smarter. There’s always something new to learn.
The horrible memories of a distant school experience remain buried someplace in my mind. The thing that is irrefutable is that when anyone believes they are above the rules or law, when they are allowed to escape consequences for their improper actions, they remain in a position to repeat the offense. These people are unafraid and will stop at nothing because really, who is going to stop them? The very people who should punish their behavior protect and defend the people who do not belong in the position they are in because their misuse of power hurts people they are meant to serve and protect. We know people like this in every organization. Look at these poor gymnasts and this terrible doctor. We have to stop protecting them and it is long overdue that justice should be served. I’ve been forced to move on and let this all go because I was powerless to stop it. I fought hard but there were many more who chose to cover it up and look away than there were those who wanted to do the right thing. For all the families who will come after me and experience what my family has had to endure, I am sorry. I couldn’t fight a crooked system. When there is no justice system, there can be no justice.
I’ve been hesitant to share this but I feel the time is finally right. A while back, I filed a discrimination case against the school with The Office of Civil Rights. The school absolutely refused to meet my sons accommodations and after begging and pleading for several years, I realized I had no other option than to go this route. I really thought foolishly that teachers and administrators would bend over backwards to help kids anyway they could. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Just like those NFL players, I took my place in front of them week after week trying to be heard. I tried negotiating, begging, bargaining and anything else I could think of to get him the resources he needed. They pushed back hard. The principal tried to threaten and intimidate me to make me go away. Chase started to see repercussions in a particular class and I had to pull him out and place him with another teacher. Our family was falling apart. I kept fighting because like any mother, I would do anything to get my son the help he needed. I was placed on depression medication and had panic attacks where I couldn’t breathe. The situation was killing me but it wasn’t right to let them get away with this and I never wanted a single kid or family to go through what we had to endure. It was the worst time in my entire life. I was interviewed by OCRs lawyer and told I would hear from them. I did 16 months later.
In the meantime, my son switched over to high school and slowly but surely life was getting back to normal. There was a day I assumed OCR would never get back to me and I came to the realization that if I remained obsessed with that debilitating experience, I would allow those teachers and that horrible administrator to lock me in that hell that I didn’t want to live in anymore. It was ruining my life. My noble notion to do something good for future kids along with my need to see these horrible people pay a price was killing me slowly one day at a time. Guess what! No one cares. No one came to rescue me as I was drowning in a pain I never should have owned. The only choice I had was to let it go. By holding onto my obsession to hold these people rightly accountable, I was losing precious days of finding joy and living my life.
I received a letter from OCR two weeks ago (now 18 months) stating that because the allotted time expired since filing my complaint, my case was being closed and no investigation would take place. Was this fair that due to them dragging their feet to get around to my case that I was being punished? You bet your ass it isn’t but guess what? That’s the way it is and crying and dwelling on it will not change the circumstances anyway. I never had a chance because when there is no enforcement of codes and rules and laws, people can do whatever they want. The wrong people are being protected and like it or not that’s just the way it is.
I’m happy to report I am off my medication and feel happy and grateful most of the time. Chase is doing fantastic in school and I think our lives are no longer controlled by the school system.
Life isn’t fair. Period. This chapter is closed and this story is over. It feels so good to put it behind me and really move on. Put down what is too heavy for you to carry. Stop choosing to be a victim of your circumstances. Stop thinking people should care about your problems. Stop trying to punish those who cause you pain. Stop thinking the world owes you a favor or you are entitled to a better outcome. Be your own hero and do everything you can to fix whatever you can and leave the rest behind. Move on, be grateful and focus on what is good in your life. Only then will you truly be free.
Some days there is a brutal battle between my mind and body. One part of me wants to sit in peace while the other part incessantly reminds me why sitting is not an option. The mind is a powerful thing. Learn to tame it or it will take control over you. Repeat after me…peace is good. Thoughts are generally a waste of time. Take that walk. Enjoy the outdoors. Practice inner peace. It’s okay not to have a plan or agenda. It is healthy to take time to rejuvenate your soul. My intention today is to allow peace to fill me up and I extend that intention to you as well. Be at peace. Be the peace the world desperately needs right now.
Do you ever stop and ask yourself, is what I’m doing getting me to my end goal? I do it all the time. There can be a million people following a process but if it doesn’t make sense to me, I’m just not going to do it. I question everything big or small to make sure I am not wasting time going through motions that do nothing to advance my agenda. Just tonight I helped my son study for a history exam. They were given the blank, study guide at the end of class. Did I mention the test is tomorrow? So, we spent the night searching for answers to questions that may or may not be right that get handed in tomorrow before the exam for a grade. No one goes over the questions to make sure these kids have the right answers. They go through the motions of studying information that they think is right but what if it’s not? Is there no such thing as common sense anymore? Who is accountable and for what exactly? I’m really confused about the point behind this process. We had 1.5 hours of chemistry tutoring that should have taken 45 minutes but because of the busy, useless work that came before, he was distracted when I needed him to be focused. And then we spent the rest of the night drilling in answers that we have no idea are right because of course they are worded with trickery. School just seems like such a waste of time these days and I am losing my enthusiasm due to the uselessness of the process. I can’t help and wonder if teachers ever question if this method makes any sense. I just don’t get it. Be a thinker. Be open to change. Check if what you are doing is helping you achieve a certain outcome. Don’t blindly follow. Find your own path and lead. We need more leaders and less followers. More thinkers and less aimless doers.
I had one of those dreaded meetings today. Just like many other times, the short time revolved around the teacher defending her teaching techniques rather than how we could work together to come up with a plan to help Chase be more successful in the classroom. I don’t know how to tell teachers that none of this is about them personally. Every year, another teacher is replaced by a new face. What I do find disturbing is their unwillingness to budge from their ways. As a parent of a kid who struggles more than most would understand, I have had to admit to myself that he just does not learn like other students. Teachers make assumptions about him based on other children and I really think it’s unfair. One obvious example is this teacher told me when she tells the students to brainstorm what the answer might be or why an experiment might turn out one way or another, he just sits there and writes nothing. Instead of asking why, she jumped to her most obvious conclusion. When I explained that Chase does the brainstorming in his head and a few minutes does not allow him to get his thoughts from his brain through his pencil and onto his paper, I think she finally understood. He is often misjudged in the classroom and so many things could be cleared up if the teacher simply asked. I get they have a lot of students but he is just as worthy of learning as every other kid sitting at a desk in a class. It’s not his fault and I wish teachers understood the amount of sacrifice, anxiety and extra hours these kids put in just to keep their heads above the water. It makes me sad that it’s the same conversation every single time. My heart breaks every night before I go to sleep wondering what ball will fall on top of him the following day. It’s always something and the anxiety it causes all of us is excruciating beyond belief. Shout out to parents who know this struggle. My love and support go out to you because I know the toll this takes on you too. Sometimes I wish I could do a reality show on this subject. One that might actually change what is going on in our public schools and give these kids the break they need to survive a school system who will never meet their needs.
There are days I get so angry that I don’t see in myself what I so readily see in others. I preach about building others up and at the same time I fail with my own child. How often do I tell him what he gets wrong? How often do I bring up a conversation about something that has resulted in his failure? How many times can a kid hear, you are a screw up and you can’t do anything right? How many times can you beat a kid down before he just stops trying to get back up? How many times can you say your best is never good enough? Is this the only voice he ever hears? Could it be? Here is a perfect example in this email that I received yesterday from his teacher.
On Quiz #3 Chase didn’t include the reasoning and evidence part of the explanation. He touched on one of the three but did not explain why those results occurred due to molecular level interactions (which is the standard). On the second question he did a great job at explaining why water had a stronger surface tension than ethanol however that is not what the question asked; the question was about why ethanol had a weaker surface tension than water.
The result? A 45. Call me crazy but isn’t explaining why water has a stronger surface tension than ethanol the same as explaining why ethanol has weaker surface tension than water?
Am I like this teacher too rigid and closed off to see his right in this so called wrong? Am I more focused on proving myself right than allowing him the opportunity to be right?
So many questions. So much guilt. So much struggle with trying to be a decent parent. Maybe I am too hard. Maybe the teacher is too hard. Maybe the world is becoming hard. Maybe parenting is too hard.
Lord, help me to remember how important my voice is and to use that voice to make my child feel good about himself. Help me see more opportunities to commend him and hold my tongue when I have the urge to criticize. Please help me make him feel more like an A instead of a failing grade. Take my hand and guide me in raising this child and elevating his self esteem. I know I cannot do this alone.