It’s almost time for parent teacher conferences again. I approach this time of year with fear and trepidation, afraid of the contact with teachers and yet, also eager for it.
It has been hard for me to advocate for my adopted kids at school. I’m a teacher, and I have always loved teachers. I was always that kid who hung around after school, hoping for a chance to erase the board and clean the erasers. I loved everything about my teachers. My first four kids who were born to me did very well in school and confirmed my trust and mutual admiration of teachers. I was prideful enough to think that our parenting was part of the reason why they did so well in school.
Then we became parents of kids who came from hard places, and all of our parenting wisdom feel apart! I’m convinced that God needed me to be humbled. For example, today I got a message from a teacher that read in part:
“M.. has made strides in willingness to exert herself and mental toughness. She still likes to choose attention getting behaviors which distract her classmates. Please remind her to look for the good in others and try harder to overlook their mistakes.”
I’m sure it is my own character flaw, but my first inclination was to respond, “Thanks for the helpful note. I have been encouraging my child to look for the bad in others and never overlook mistakes. I’m so grateful for your help.”
Parenting kids who have trauma in their backgrounds brings out a fierce in me that has been surprising. My kids’ vulnerability has brought out the proverbial “mama bear” in me. In fact, sometimes innocent communication from teachers feels like a criticism of my parenting, when I’m sure (mostly) that it wasn’t meant in that way at all.
My kids depend on my advocacy. Teachers have many jobs to do, and many kids to learn about. Therefore, it is my job to know about my child and her needs in a way that can help others who are working with her. My child needs me to be with her and for her. That means I may need to find resources for her teachers and be willing to fearlessly share those resources with them. I need to be the one who educates others about my child and their needs. It can be intimidating to look at educators who have many years of education and experience and still be confident that you are the expert in your child, however, that is what you are called to do.
Teachers are great! They were great when I shook out their erasers and they are great now. However, just as I needed to learn and change in response to my girls’ needs, teachers need to learn and change in response to their students’ needs. My kids need me. They need love and support from the ones who know them the very best to be their advocate. They need us to go out ahead of them. I am reminded of John 10: 4 and 5.
4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”