My 20-year-old daughter, Mailey is in her 3rd year of college, and I’m very proud of her. When I think back on the setback she had in elementary school and how hard it was for her to recover from it, I feel overjoyed to see where she is now and to see her doing so well.
And while I couldn’t be happier with the current outcome of things, I do think back on this incident and have a brief “would of, should of, could of” moment.
What kind of set back could Mailey have had that would cause her years of tutoring, additional outside help, and low self-esteem? I trusted Mailey’s first-grade school teacher and to our disappointment, she lacked responsiveness, a caring attitude, and commitment to ensure that every one of her students succeeded.
My daughter was demonstrating some difficulty when it came to reading. I watched her carefully as she would distort or skip words when she read. And when I would point it out to her she would say “oh, I didn’t see that.” I advised her to slow down and look carefully at every word on the page, but this only helped a tiny bit.
I immediately brought this issue up to M’s teacher, who we’ll call Mrs. R. The school year was just a couple weeks in at that point. Mrs. R said that my daughter was doing perfectly well, that she was very articulate, and she assured me that this was common and that she had seen this before so there was nothing to worry about. Her reply seems nice on paper, but face to face it seemed a bit dismissive. But I thought “Okay, she knows best.” Hesitantly the only relief I found was when she said this was common and nothing of concern. This was my first mistake, I took the word of one teacher as reason enough to move past a concern I had about Mailey’s reading.
A bit further into the school year, the situation at home had not improved so I addressed Mrs. R once again. I should have listened to that gut feeling that was telling me something was wrong. But with even more confidence, Mrs. R. reassured me that nothing was wrong with my daughter and she was doing great. She suggested that perhaps the pressure of working alongside a parent could be causing her to feel nervous which resulted in the reading mistakes. “This is very common,” she repeated. So again, I convinced myself to trust Mrs. R.
In hindsight, maybe my subconscious was hearing exactly what it needed to hear and therefore didn’t insist that Mrs. R do more than just dismiss all my concerns by telling me that my daughter was doing great. But my gut knew better, I just wish I had been able to follow that gut feeling and that I would’ve been able to advocate for my daughter in the way that she deserved.
The problem persisted. I tried getting my daughter a tutor to help her with homework, but the problem continued. At that time, I felt I was doing the right thing. (As if speaking to the teacher — just one teacher was enough). I was so wrong to have trusted that Mrs. R would look out for my girl. I stayed for a class project one day, and I felt as though Mrs. R had specific children that she was going above and beyond for (my daughter was not one of the selected few). Instead, my daughter seemed to be a part of the students that Mrs. R wasn’t too invested in. But I wasn’t able to confirm this until the end of the school year.
It was the first time I had felt furious towards a teacher. I felt almost sick to my stomach when Mrs. R addressed me just two weeks before the school year ended and said, “I’ve noticed your daughter distorts words when she reads and I’m concerned.” She didn’t even acknowledge our prior meetings on this matter, as if she didn’t remember the times I approached her with this same concern. I was in total disbelief. I was angry towards Mrs. R, and I felt let down by her and the school. Most of all I felt disappointed in myself for allowing someone else to govern my gut feeling when it came to my daughter. Everything hit me at once, I suddenly understood that until the day when my daughter could advocate for herself, no one was in a better place to advocate for her than me. No one else knew her as I did, and for that reason, I would make sure that nothing like this or close to it occurred again.
It took so long to bring my daughter up to par. By the end of first grade, her reading and her self-esteem had fallen to a point where it would take us years of work, reaching out for help, and working together for my daughter to be in a place where she was confident and happy. I wrote a more detailed description of the help we sought in this blog from 2016,
Had I handled this ordeal, which I wish had never occurred, differently and gone beyond that one school teacher, our outcome might have been like night and day. Instead, it brought tears, depression, low-self-esteem, tutors, extra expenses, time conflicts, and so much stress. School was not a positive experience for my daughter because she spent years backpedaling to catch up to her peers.
One teacher, one bad apple is all it took in my daughter’s academic career to stir things up in such an ugly and complicated way that it left many unpleasant academic memories. In case you are wondering, the issue was just a matter of needing corrective glasses. That’s it. But one school teacher decided not to listen to a parent’s concerns, not to work with a parent, not to pay close attention where there was a concern, and let a struggling child sit in her class all year long and fall behind. Had Mailey’s teacher showed a commitment to ensuring that every child in her classroom succeeds, she would have paid closer attention to Mailey, and she would have caught the problem and together we could have worked to correct it a lot sooner.
Every single teacher counts. And every single teacher should be taken care of because they are sprinkles of gold on our children’s pathway to a great education. But in turn, every single teacher should be held accountable exactly for that reason because they are invaluable to our children’s educational trajectory. Every single teacher makes an impact, whether they make a significant, insignificant, or bad impact, they all leave some lasting footprint in our children’s educational journey.
Teachers like Mrs. R need to be held accountable. Where was this teacher’s commitment to teaching with my daughter? Where was this teacher’s commitment to helping every child succeed? It was surely not present with my daughter. This is just my experience with her, but what about other students whose parents might have approached her with their own concerns? I understand that sometimes certain things might go unnoticed by a teacher, but something obvious like having difficulty reading doesn’t seem hard to spot if you are listening or paying attention for it, especially after a parent has shown concern. Dismissing a parent’s concerns so matter of factly without looking into it first wasn’t right either. From that incident on, I changed. I advocated for my daughter, had meetings with school officials, and did everything and anything I had to do to get my daughter whatever help she needed. And I never again allowed another teacher to sweep my concerns under a rug.
Monica Luna Gonzalez
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