The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Monday, June 01, 2009


A Child Shines When a Teacher Sees Her Brightness

Parents' Night. Second Grade. 

Kindergarten and first grade were disasters for my daughter and for myself. I was in a clinical medical study for lymphoma, while my daughter was in a classroom with forty children from whom much was expected. My daughter needed warmth and attention. Instead she received coldness and efficiency. 

Guilt over my class choices for her was at times overwhelming. Probably as overwhelmed as she was in her class. She made few if any friends. Mimi was unusually quiet. I rarely had the energy to do homework with her. I had changed drastically from the fun mommy I used to be into one that she no longer knew. She wanted the old one back. I wanted her to return, too.

Here it was a year later and a class of difference. Mimi was now in a room with only twenty children and a warm teacher who made jokes, treated each child as an individual and with love. She even hugged each one at day's end.

During Parents' Night Mimi was the first name called to read her story. We expected the antithesis. Yun. That's always last. Though surprised, Mimi strode to the front of the room, before her classmates and their parents, including her own, sat on the stool, opened her book, and confidently read.

I sat up straight and stared at her with a kind of love that can only emanate from a mother to her child. My smile was permanently embedded in my face. Her reading was loud, confident and funny. She took note to pause at the laughter and then continue.  When I saw my daughter, I admit, I saw myself.  What an ego boost! 

Mimi jumped off the chair and stood before it, taking in the applause and looked in the back for me, seeking my approval. Our eyes locked as I stood and clapped. "Bravo!" I yelled. "Bravo, baby!" 

The other parents clapped especially loudly. Some knew what she, and what I, had gone though. She also received extra applause for going first and showing extraordinary poise. She was recognized for the talent she is and always was. She was no longer  "one of the lowest" which I had to hear over and over for the previous two years. The teachers excuses of, "Well, she is one of the youngest," never convinced me otherwise. She was labeled as less than and less than she always was in those classes.

With the right teacher, a warm environment and support, she has thrived. The other day when I was volunteering in her class, the students had to be tested for their reading. I listened to each child as I sat working on my volunteer project. When it was Mimi's turn the teacher asked if I wanted to stay or leave. I said I would continue what I was doing. As Mimi read, my guess was that she was average. I was stunned when the teacher added the numbers and said, "She's at 158. That makes her one of the best readers in the class. Wow!" She looked at me with wonder. "She improved by 200 points from last year. What happened last year?"

Though a very painful subject for me, I've learned -- and being a New Yorker this has not been easy -- not to say anything bad. Rather, I simply said there was a lot going on with me medically and I believe it affected her. Plus, she was simply in the wrong class. "Now," I said, "she's in the right one."

A child being placed in the correct class with the appropriate teacher can make all the difference in her confidence and success. 

Now I must seek out the right third-grade teacher. I am not a parent who demands things for her children. But when it comes to school and the right teachers I've learned the hard way that some things are worth fighting for. This week I have a date with the principal. Mimi endured two years of wrong classes. I will be nice, but firm, and even a New Yorker if I must, but I will ensure that a classroom mistake like that doesn't happen to her again. I think she's paid her dues. Even if her library books are usually late. 

By Dawn Yun

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Wow, I'm so glad things are going better for you. Kids are funny learning to read. Elena was totally lost in kindergarten, was asked to go to remedial summer school, and then, out of the blue, in the middle of first grade, reading clicked for her. She became one of the strongest readers in the class. I don't know much about teaching reading, but I know learning it is NOT incremental.
what a difference a year makes!

Cathy Burke
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