Listen: Parents Are Education Advocates Too
As the mother of a Black 8-year-old boy, I know that the stats are already stacked against him: Black boys (and girls) are usually disciplined more harshly in school. And Black boys are more than three times more likely than their White male counterparts to receive out-of-school suspensions. So I know I have to fight to make sure he stays on track and gets a good education. Needless to say, I’ve become my son’s biggest advocate.
Recently, I had a situation at his school where the teacher did not listen to my thoughts on teaching my son and what works well for him. His teacher would call me to say that he was not completing his work, was playing with his pencils, looking out the window, and staring off into space. But, whenever she called on him to do a math problem or any subject on the board, he would get it correct. When I met with the teacher in person, she suggested my son has ADD, and that he should meet with a psychologist and be in a special education class. I could not believe what I was hearing. I know my child, and I was convinced that was not what he needed.
As my son simply put it, he was bored in her class and the teacher did not make learning fun. I mentioned this to her. I also told her that he responds to positive reinforcement, so I suggested maybe giving him a sticker, colorful pencil, or even drawing a happy face to help him complete his class work and be more focused during the day. She did not take my suggestions, and my son continued to struggle.
So then, I requested a meeting with the school counselor and the principal. I explained to them the issues my son and I were having with his teacher. Instead of listening to me, they sided with the teacher, without even considering my recommendations. I felt as though they were trying to categorize my son as having special needs, when it was clear that he knew the material. I refused to let someone label another little Black boy — my boy — as a problem child. I immediately asked that he transfer to a different class. Because I was persistent, it only took two weeks for the transfer to take place.
Before my son started his new class, I spoke with the new teacher. I told her what his learning style is and suggested ideas to get him to do his classwork and stay focused. And she listened. Now, my son is doing much better — he’s completing his work, and he enjoys the class. The teacher engages her students, and rewards them with prizes and pizza parties when they complete their class work. He’s in third-grade heaven.
All students are different and learn differently. So I think it’s important that teachers take the time to know each student’s work ethic and learning style. Parents can help teachers figure this out. We may not have a degree in education or child development or years of teaching experience. But we know and love our kids, and only want the best for them. Together, we can make my kid — and all kids — build a brighter future.