I was on the phone with a special education director, gathering information about a student so that I could provide some good legal advice. The director told me a lot about the student, but didn’t mention what disability made him eligible for special education. So I asked: “What’s his disability?” The answer: “His mother.”
Moms. Bless their hearts! They come in all shapes and sizes, all types of personalities, the full spectrum of humanity. In your district you probably deal with Friendly Moms who work at the Halloween Carnival and bring cupcakes to the PTA meetings. You deal with Hostile Moms who question every move you make. You deal with High Maintenance Moms who take up most of your time. You deal with Overwhelmed Moms who don’t have the time or energy to attend ARD meetings. You deal with Moms who just got out of prison and Moms who just got out of law school. You deal with Moms who are also teachers, and Moms who were served in a special education program themselves.
One thing they have in common is the power they have to influence their children.
Consider the story told by Michelle Obama about her experience in elementary school. The former FLOTUS describes her second grade experience at Bryn Mawr Elementary on the South Side of Chicago as “a mayhem of unruly kids and flying erasers.” She continues:
All this seemed due to a teacher who couldn’t figure out how to assert control—who didn’t seem to like children, even. Beyond that, it wasn’t clear than anyone was particularly bothered by the fact that the teacher was incompetent. The students used it as an excuse to act out, and she seemed to think only the worst of us. In her eyes, we were a class of “bad kids,” though we had no guidance and no structure and had been sentenced to a grim, underlit room in the basement of the school.
Fortunately for young Michelle Robinson, she had an advocate—her mother:
Without telling me, she went over to the school and began a weeks-long process of behind the scenes lobbying, which led to me and a couple of other high-performing kids getting quietly pulled out of class, given a battery of tests, and about a week later installed permanently into a bright and orderly third grade class upstairs, governed by a smiling, no-nonsense teacher who knew her stuff.
She characterized this move, engineered by her mother, as “a small but life changing move.” Years later—after the magnet high school in downtown Chicago, after Princeton, after Harvard Law School—she looked back on this event with enhanced perspective:
…my mind often traveled back to childhood, and in particular to the month or so I’d spent in the pencil-flying pandemonium of that second grade class at Bryn Mawr Elementary, before my mother had the wherewithal to have me plucked out. In the moment, I’d felt nothing but relieved by my own good fortune. But as my luck in life seemed only to snowball from there, I thought more about the twenty or so kids who’d been marooned in that classroom, stuck with an uncaring and unmotivated teacher. I knew I was no smarter than any of them. I just had the advantage of an advocate….Through no fault of their own, those second graders had lost a year of learning. I’d seen enough at this point to understand how quickly even small deficits can snowball too.
I had a Mom like that too. She was a third grade teacher with high expectations for her children. All these many years later I still feel her influence.
I know that many Loyal Daily Dawg Readers are Moms. So let me just say, without a touch of snark or tongue-in-cheek: BLESS YOUR HEARTS!!
DAWG BONE: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MOM!!