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.