Today was my almost official first day of summer break. I had to go in for an hour or so to turn things in and sign out for the year, but I'm officially done. I brought Tera with me to visit some of the people that have been so supportive of us this year and she didn't disappoint. After leaving school Tera and I had a delightfully enjoyable brunch with some of my favorite ladies (minus a few) from work and we got on with our day.
This hasn't been an easy year for me or my colleagues. We had the stress of a strike and it seemed that the stress, while uniting us as a staff, extended for the rest of the year.
It was the first time I've had to balance being a mom and working and I'll admit there were times I didn't know if I could successfully do it. I always felt that I wasn't giving myself enough to either part of my life and it wore on me significantly.
All the days that Tera was sick were difficult to manage because I was trying not to go through all my sick time but still wanting to be with her when she wasn't feeling well. Trying to schedule her therapies at both home and daycare so that we knew what was going on and so that her teachers knew what to work on was another significant challenge that won't be changing anytime soon.
One of the parts I didn't necessarily anticipate was the constant battle between setting expectations for my students and dealing with what seemed like constant rebuttal of those expectations and trying to see things from a parent's perspective. Much of what I did was thought about from my new role as a mom and I often wondered if what I was expecting was too much. I feel confident that what I was expecting is what I hope Tera's teachers expect of her when she is a student. I don't feel like these expectations are unreasonable either; respect, accountability, and some sort of work ethic.
I've read a lot from parents of older kids with DS that they have to constantly fight for their children to receive a fair education. Most of the time the parents aren't concerned about the academics being too difficult, it tends to be more that their children aren't being challenged enough because teachers aren't expecting enough. I've seen both sides of this as a teacher; I've seen students who clearly need special help and whose parents don't want to admit it, and I've seen students who perform perfectly well in a regular classroom despite having been classified as a special education student. I see these things as a teacher and I start to worry that as a parent I'll be blindsided by my concern for Tera to make the right decision for her.
In my career I've seen so many students whose parents have done all the right things and they still struggle both socially and academically. And then I see the students whose parents want to do everything for them, assume that their child couldn't possibly be capable of doing anything wrong, set no limits or boundaries, demand no responsibility of their children, and encourage the type of behavior that results in them crying to me and begging to pass when they've done very little to deserve it. It's this latest situation that has worn me down the most. The feeling that because they chose to ignore their classroom responsibilities, I'm somehow to blame for the resulting grade. See the best part about math is that for the most part, it's right or wrong. Test scores and homework scores, aren't just handed out; they're calculated, totaled, averaged, and a grade is the result. I don't "give" grades, they are earned by doing, or not doing, what is expected.
As a parent and a teacher, I will probably always hold any children of mine to higher standards than some of their classmates might be held to. I will never expect more than they are capable of, but I will always expect that they do their best. If their best is an A and they get a C, there will be consequences, but if they work hard and always try their best and they get a C, I will be proud and I will make sure they know that I am. I have never demanded perfection from my students and I won't demand it of any of my own children, but I do demand effort. This is how my parents raised me and I am very proud of my work ethic. I only hope that my kids, and my students, understand that at some point.