being a teacher, being me

We Send You Our Best

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I have shared Thea’s story with school for years.  How our oldest daughter was labeled a struggling reader in kindergarten and has been in intervention ever since.  How she declared that reading was simply too hard in 2nd grade, despite her incredible teachers, but that Dog Man by Dav Pilkey made her believe that she was a reader and that she had always been a reader.

How our oldest daughter was bullied so badly that she asked whether you could survive without friends.  That she ended up changed last year, new pieces of a puzzle that we have yet to figure out how to fit together.

I have shared how we have we searched for answers.  How we have focused on protecting her hope of reading.  Her love of school.  How we have flooded her with books, fought for her right to be safe, and seemingly tried everything we can to make her believe that she has worth.

Thea is a child who tries even when it is hard.  She is our dreams come true.

What I have never shared, fully, is the guilt that comes with having your child identified as someone who hasn’t learned what they should.  The shame in your own parental structures.  The questioning of your own ability to parent successful children who do not need intervention.  Who do not end up being a question mark.

Who do not end up being bullied.  Being the victim of other children’s vicious nature and whims.

Who do not end up being the parents of a child who thinks that she doesn’t deserve friends, because she is lame.

I think of all of those emotions that are tied in with our own children’s journey.  How their journey in school only seems to highlight the failures we have as parents.  As people.  How we blame ourselves when they fail to reach benchmarks.  When they get in trouble.  When they fail to find the community that other children seem to so easily find.  When they make decisions that we seemingly cannot understand and we know that the teachers that teach them may very well think that we are the ones that pushed them in that direction.

How many nights of conversations my husband and I have had about what we were doing wrong.  About what else we could do.  Trying to come up with solutions to a situation we are not sure we understand.  How many nights we have held our tongue and assumed that perhaps a teacher did not see how something affected our child.  How many nights I have cried over how I have failed my own child because of what she has to face.  How I wish I could take her place but that I know that as a parent that is not my role.

I think of how many times I have assumed that a child stood in front of me and acted a certain way because that is how their parents or those at home acted.  That the child in front of me is surely the product of everything those at home failed to do.

I am ashamed of this realization.  Of the judgment, I have so easily passed.  Of the assumptions, I have let shape my decisions in how to work with kids.  In how to work with those at home.  But in shame comes learning.  Comes growth.

Because what Thea has taught me, what all of our children have taught me, is that most parents try their best.  That we send you the very best kid we can.  That we have probably done all of the things that are meant to make our child as successful as they can but it turns out it might just not be enough.

That sometimes even though we follow the rules, take the advice, try all of the tricks, a child, our child, will still confound us.  Will still mystify us.  Will still make us pause as we wonder what else we could have done.

I hope my children’s teachers see us as parents who try.  That they know that sometimes we don’t understand a behavior either.  That we have raised them right but that doesn’t guarantee that they will act right.  That even though we did all the things to raise a reader, our child, who is a reader, may not be able to read well, yet.  That even though we have raised our child to be kind, helpful, and loving, others may not see her as such.

May we all remember how hard it is to send a child to school.  How hard it is to let go and hope that the child that walks through those doors is the child you hoped would show up.  Because we tried.  Because we are trying.  And I hope you see that.  I hope we all remember that.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.


10 thoughts on “We Send You Our Best”

  1. This should be read by everyone involved in an IEP or any other meeting about a student at school, before the meeting. I, too, altho’ now retired, had a son who didn’t read until 2nd grade when he discovered a joke book, a daughter who sat alone in the library every quarter while the others had a pizza reward party because she missed an assignment or point goal, and now 2 g’sons who don’t like to read because of the pressure on them by teachers and by–“you have to read at your level! AR quizzes and point goals.” Like I said, I wish every person involved in a meeting about a child would read and think about this before beginning their discussion! Thank you for sharing it and for being an honest teacher and parent.

  2. Pernille, I have been reading your blog for a few years now and I love it! Reading and fostering a love of it in your students and own children is so important. Keep on preaching this!

    I am writing with some encouragement for you. I am a mom of three, ages 17 to 27. The baby just graduated from high school. (small school, one class per grade) She went off to kindergarten in high spirits and had a wonderful year. Then in grade one, she was bullied for most of the year. It took a while for me to realize what was going on (the bully was wily and the teacher didn’t witness anything) and the damage was done. She was no longer a lover of school. Over her school career, she took more than her fair share of sharp-tongued taunts and ostracism from girls she thought were her friends. A couple of times a year she would ask me if she could be homeschooled instead of going back. Every time she asked, I did re-examine the question and for different reasons each time decided to finish out the school year at school. (the boy was expelled in grade one after complaints from many parents so he was no longer a factor)

    To make a long story short, she started out in kindergarten a pampered youngest child, petted and a wee bit spoiled. Her social challenges over the years cured her of her ego-centric-ness and taught her to be sensitive to the feelings of those around her. She can sense things in others that they are carrying inside that are hidden from most people. We had teacher after teacher tell us at graduation how she added to the class and was a stabilizing factor when typical teen drama reared its head. How the others looked to her for how to respond in certain situations and the class was a close-knit group because of that.

    I say all this not to suggest that your daughter is pampered. Mine was. I say this to give you hope that maybe your daughter will be refined by her difficult school experiences to become an extra special young adult that might make a big mark on others around her.

    Keep your chin up! (I know that is a platitude when you are hurting over a loved child’s challenges) Alana Schmidt

  3. I love and admire you, Pernille Ripp. When I feel the need to criticize a parent, I try so hard to remember how I wanted my children to be treated by teachers and I have an immediate mindshift. You continue to inspire me. Thank you.

  4. I was the parent in the IEP meeting before I became a teacher. I didn’t feel judged by the school or other teachers, but I remember thinking I would be. I keep that in mind when I’m talking to parents. It helps me ask questions, and listen.Your post touched me as a parent and teacher.

  5. Thank for a beautifully written article As a teacher we sometimes get so caught up in the job that we forget our purpose. It’s good to be reminded why we are all here. You send us your best and we will do our best!

  6. These posts hit home. Both from the perspective of myself as a parent and as a teacher. I have thought the same thoughts. Watching your own child struggle to find community can be heart-wrenching. I get it, believe me. I hope you know how important your ability to recognize these things was to our son at this point in his journey forward.

  7. I get it. My son struggled to read and I kept thinking how that must look since I’m a teacher. But it helped me really understand the idea of “developmentally ready”, which I claimed to understand before this but really probably didn’t. My son, who is a wonderful son and a great person, may not be seen that way by others because he hangs with a crowd that got in trouble and he, too, has gotten in some trouble doing things like drinking. This has taught me how people judge without really knowing and it’s made me realize I was one of those people before this. I will not be one of those people now, so it’s helped me become a better person even though it’s hard. I now understand that these things do not mean we were bad parents (or that “those kids” don’t have “bad parents”) or that we have a “bad kid.” We have a wonderful kid that many just have no clue about but are quick to judge. Ahhhh, I could go on about what I’ve come to understand about how my son was treated in school verses my “good daughter”, when really they are so much a like, but I’ll spare you all of that. I want to leave you with this thought. As hard as all of this has been at times, I look at it all as a blessing. I have gotten a chance to grow and understand things that many parents and teachers may never understand because they have never gone through it. It’s made me better and I know it’s doing that for you too. Thus, it’s making us better for our own children and all those we teach. – Stop the guilt.

  8. I can so strongly connect to this. My two oldest were the easy kids at school- well behaved, learned easily. However, our youngest struggled with delays starting as a baby. She has the sweetest disposition, but school is very much a struggle for her. I worry how this will continue to affect her education; how it will affect friendships. I worry…

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