Dear Teacher: A Letter from “That Mom”

Dear Teacher/Principal/School Administrator:

When I first started working in special education as a teacher aide 8 years ago, I remember being warned about “that mom.” And as I continued on in the field working in different schools in different districts, I would always here about “that mom” because, as I came to realize, every school has “that mom.” Most schools have several of them. I quickly learned that “that mom” was not a compliment. You were to stay away from “that mom.” You were supposed to tread lightly around “that mom” and you were to be very, very careful about what you say to “that mom.” By the time I became a teacher, I started to warn others about “that mom.”  I hated dealing with “that mom.” So you could imagine the irony when I realized that, in the last few years that I have been dealing with my school district as a parent, I have become “that mom.” And, well, as “that mom” I feel it my duty to clear the air:

It has come to my attention that I am being referred to as “that mom” and I am here to set the record straight. When I was a teacher I knew exactly what you meant about “that mom” and I believed every word of it. “That mom” is a pain. “That mom” tells you how to do your job. “That mom” comes at you with books to read and research to review. “That mom” never seems happy with what you are doing. “That mom” tries to convince you that there is something wrong with their child even when you can clearly see otherwise. “That mom” just wants their child to get special treatment. “That mom” doesn’t respect your professional opinion. “That mom” isn’t happy about the services your school provides. “That mom” wants more and cannot just be satisfied by what you have to offer. “That mom” questions EVERYTHING. “That mom” is constantly asking you for data and information to support what you say. “That mom” brings an advocate to her IEP meetings. “That mom” is crazy and overprotective. “That mom” is a trouble maker. “That mom” is every school district’s worst nightmare.

Well, I am here to tell you that I am not “that mom.” Rather, I am “this mom.” “This mom” has a child with extra needs. “This mom” fully understands that the challenges her child faces aren’t the end of the world but, still, they are enough to make everyday life a bit more challenging. “This mom” has accepted that her child comes with a different set of instructions that aren’t so easy to understand. “This mom” made it her job to become an expert in her child’s challenges so she can teach her to be the best she can be. “This mom” understands that her child’s behaviors could look minimal or be misunderstood which is why she tries to share her parental experience to help make your job a little easier. “This mom” has years’ worth of data, reports and evaluations to prove that her child’s extra needs do indeed exist, as hard as they are to see. “This mom” has watched teachers judge her child in a negative way and make her feel badly about things she was unable to control. “This mom” has seen her child question herself and it was truly heartbreaking. “This mom” doesn’t think there is anything wrong with her child and she wouldn’t change her for the world. “This mom” has a child who needs minor accommodations. “This mom” asks for data to back up your recommendations because she has been lied to in the past. “This mom” is trying to make sure her child gets what she is legally entitled to. “This mom” spends more time researching special education law than she wants to. “This mom” is tired. “This mom” is misunderstood.” “This mom” is her child’s only true advocate. “This mom” just wants you to listen.

You see, the day I became a parent I realized that there was this person in the world I cared about more than myself. In an instant I felt this urge to love and protect this person with everything I had inside of me.  But then came this realization that at some point this child may deal with pain or hardship and that is a hard pill to swallow when you have this overwhelming instinct to shield them from anything difficult. So, as you can see, all I want is for my children to be happy and successful despite all the challenges they face in life. I want what is best for them. I want them to embrace themselves for who they are..warts and all. And wanting all of these things doesn’t make me “that mom” or “this mom.” It just makes me “mom.”

I hope that you can understand my point of view. I want to work with you, not against you. A teacher’s job is often overlooked and undervalued…much like the job of a mother. I hope that we can move forward and work together on creating a happy and well balanced child. I promise to thank you more and question less. I only ask that you do the same for me.

Sincerely,

The mother of “that kid”

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4 thoughts on “Dear Teacher: A Letter from “That Mom”

  1. You could not have said it better. Thank you, thank you thank you. I too am that mom. I am Not anxious, I am not unrealistic, I am not overly demanding. I do respect the demands and difficulties of being a teacher. I also do not feel it is my job to teach special ed “professionals” techniques to help my child, so please forgive me if I have some frustration about that. I am a team player and do strongly believe in working with my school and my child’s educators as a team working for his success, versus finding excuses why he does not qualify for the support he needs to be successful.
    I do expect that my child’s educational experience should not result in him trying shoe laces around his neck because he feels he has a “bad brain”. Difficulties, problems, lower grades, fine. “Bad brain, and why did God make me this way? I am an F” absolutely Not OKAY by me. It is 2015, and the systems can do better, and MORE IMPORTANTLY THE LEGISLATURE THAT TIES THE HANDS AND THE FINANCES OF THE SCHOOL’S MUST DO BETTER. My heart breaks for the kids who do not have THIS MOM to advocate for them. It’s not that those moms are not wonderful, but not everyone has access to all the resources and rights available for their child. Together we will bring about change, because there ARE MANY of these moms out here. Maybe one day we will have a MILLION MOM March on Washington.
    We have too many gems that are falling through the cracks.
    Thanks again to this mom for starting this dialogue.

    • Thank you Melissa! Wow it’s been a long time, so nice to hear from you. I love hearing stories from both sides. Great teachers are such a reward and luckily this year we have a team implementing what we need. Unfortunately sometimes it takes a parent to take a stand against the higher powers who grant the services that makes these kids successful. But every time I have been faced with an obstacle And I hold firm the rewards were worth the stress. Even if it gets me labeled ” that mom” 🙂

  2. Your blog is amazing!!!! Thank you so much for sharing this. I am a Special Education teacher and have two boys. When my oldest was a baby I thought he was autistic, he didn’t like loud noises and we couldn’t clap after singing Happy Birthday. He kept to himself was very quiet. He did make eye contact. As he got older I had to warn him and prepare him for events. Repeating what we would be doing and making sure he would be ok. I would be prepared to flee from places because I would not stay somewhere if he was crying and carrying on. I didn’t have him tested until he was 3. It wasn’t autism or anything like that, but he did have visual perception issues (we started OT and PT). The doctor called him a gray area kid, he was on the cusp of certain things but it was delayed. Now at 9 he is doing very well. Now with my second I am about to have him tested for a learning disability.

    I have been my children’s advocates because of course the school district doesn’t want to pay for evaluations. I go through insurance. (Sad because I work in the district) I think the things you have done for your daughter are great.

    On the teacher side (I teach in a Self contained Language Arts) I love when parents can help me with their kids. I teach 4-8 grade and the sad thing is as the kids get older the parents just accept what we say and don’t advocate for their children, I embrace those parents that call me and email me. I make a point to give them updates at least once a month.

    When those kids walk into my class they are my babies for a year. I share 1/2 the responsibility of their growth with their parents. As I feel when my boys go to school their teachers do the same. Not one year that passes that I don’t cry when I have to say good bye to my boys teachers. And when I have a student graduate. This year a group of my students graduate from High School and one girl is going to College for Speech Pathology (she is on the spectrum and was a select mute) She brought tears to my eyes.

    Keep doing what you are doing. The professionals who really care and matter will appreciate you. You are not being “That mom.”

    Melissa Bruno-Mule` (I am so glad Alex shared this on FB.) xoxoxoxo

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