SOL – Caring

Slice of LIfe

Friday March 2, 2012

Early today I drove up to school to begin parent conferences.  My school is on the far north side of my city and many of our family are struggling with poverty and are highly mobile.  They are family who are dealing with the struggles of our economy.  Some are working two jobs, or looking for work,  some with one parent working the night shift and the other working the days, families from many nations learning a new language, divorce and separation are a part of the picture as well.  It would be easy to stereo type the families of poverty to expect that their lives are so busy making end meet that they just can’t be there for their children but through all the struggles they came each with their child in tow eager to hear how their son or daughter were doing.  Each wanting to know what they could do to be sure their students learn and do well.  Each parent asking if their child was behaving and what books should they get at the library to read.  Each parent with a story unique and wonderful about their child.

This day of conferences had echo’s of another time that I could not place until late tonight.   I realized I know the feeling I see in each of my struggling students.  It is the same feeling I had as  a child.    Teachers years ago would have been watching my Mother and I – the single mother in poverty with her child, who struggled in school.   In those days a single mother was not the norm.  Most families had two parents, all families in my school spoke English, most families had mothers who stayed home and did not work.     I now wonder did teachers long ago see the unique story my Mother could tell or were we “just” that family in poverty.  The poor mother who had to work.  The mother who was thought to not not care because she was not home with her child.   How did my mother feel as she walked into school to share our unique story?   I know how I felt as that young child – afraid, unsure and embarrassed that we did not fit into the “norm”.

It reminded me again that through the generations there was and  is no “norm”.  All families have unique stories, all families love and care for their children and all families want the best for their children.  My Mother certainly did, and my parents today certainly do.

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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9 Responses to SOL – Caring

  1. Yes it takes caring and an open heart to see. Most of my teaching career I worked in poverty schools and there is sometimes such beauty and bravery in the way these families face the obstacles of daily life.

  2. Paul says:

    The story is what we always need to focus on. Nothing is more powerful than having a child and their parents know what you see them, you know they have a story, and you’re on their side. Great reflection here; clarity and sensitivity. Thanks for the reminder–

  3. Ruth says:

    This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for writing “close to your bones” and reminding us how important stories are.

  4. Deb Day says:

    Amazing post. We sometimes are so quick to judge the parents. This is a terrific reminder that parents as well as their children have unique stories…

  5. Maria says:

    Thank you for posting this slice-it is a touching story that reminds all of us of the importance of allowing students to be where they are and helping them from that point. When I taught in inner city St. Louis I was reminded of so many similar situations.

  6. Charlene says:

    Your feelings for your students and their families are so clear. I’d like to think this is the “cup” I drink from, also. You show we are fortunate to have a chance to talk with parents and share about their most precious part of life.

  7. Karen says:

    What an amazing perspective you bring to this thinking. Looking beyond the nuts and bolts of the situation to the real people inside. Such a lovely slice! Thanks.

  8. Well said. While my students are generally blessed with all that they need, my mom grew up in a single parent home, in poverty. She’s always been thankful for wonderful teachers who saw her as a vibrant learner, not a “poor kid”. I know your students will always remember your dedication, too!

  9. Betsy says:

    If we can pay attention, as you point out, to the unique story that each family has, we have a window toward a partnership with them and support for the child. Beautiful story.

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