Since the very first moment that I found out I was going to be a mother I knew that I would have one mission above all others. I was determined not to let anyone make my child feel stupid.
I was definitely a victim of teachers who said stupid things, and bullies who got under my skin as a child and I spent my entire adolescence believing that I was stupid, not smart enough, or just not good at things -- you know, things like math, or science.
I remember like it was yesterday having an elementary school teacher tell me, "Oh, it's okay honey. Some girls just aren't good at math!"
Do you know what I heard?
"You're just not smart enough to be good at math."
I believed that all the way through the majority of my life.
At one point, a counselor, or maybe a principal I can't remember, told my mother that she would be lucky if I graduated high school and would most likely end up working as a custodian... if I was lucky.
When I went to college I desperately searched for something to major in that wouldn't require me to take any math classes, because I was convinced I couldn't do it.
At one point as I was working in a retail store part-time I was offered a promotion, better hours, and better pay, to manage the cash room -- the place where all the cash register drawers go after the store closes to be balanced -- and I turned it down flat with the remark "I can't do that, I suck at math!" My boss looked at me shocked and informed me that I didn't, in fact, suck at math and they'd love to have me in there because of my good math skills and my reliability. I couldn't be convinced though, because the negative stuff is far easier to believe than the good stuff.
When I had my first child and it was a daughter I first thought that this was only an issue that girls dealt with. Surely teachers didn't tell boys they aren't good at math, or that they'll be lucky to work as a custodian, right? My second child was a boy, and I learned that is absolutely not the case.
I have heard a lot of "He's just a boy!" excuses from educators over the years. I have seen him get in trouble in school for things that my daughter would have never even gotten mentioned to her, let alone to me. I have seen rules applied differently to him, than they were to her.
Fast forward to now, when I call a parent/teacher conference because three hours of homework with my son seems crazy to me. Because getting notes that he kept a math test for 2-3 hours... and still scored a 64 percent... seems like something that should be looked into. Because he gets A's on the worksheets, and F's on the tests. Picture me sitting there while this room full of people who are employed to teach my child tells me that he's "Really successful" and they don't want to pull him out of class, or treat him special, because they don't want him to feel like he's not doing well enough. He has ALL C's. They're basically telling me this is the best I can expect for him and I know better. I refuse to accept that this is the best that he, or the best that THEY can do.
We have a lot of advantages now that we didn't have when I was a student. He has a diagnosis of ADD, which is more than enough for me to secure an IEP for him. Did I have ADHD? More than likely. Did I need something extra at school to help me out? Probably.
Am I stupid? Absolutely not. Neither are my children, and I will be damned if I let anyone make them feel like they are, even for a single second!
I have seen his brilliance, just like I have seen hers. I have seen him as a child with a speech issue have the ability to choose a different word to get his point across when he couldn't make us understand. I have seen him figure out how to make things work that other people would have given up on. I have seen him have these brilliant, funny, intelligent ideas and I have had some of the most amazing conversations with him.
I won't let anyone make either of my children feel like less than enough, and I won't for a minute buy into the idea that letter grades on a report card are an effective measure of anyone's self-worth. I will fight, I will advocate, and I will shout it from the rooftops!