For 25 years, I dreaded August. Not because of my anxieties as a parent. But because of my anxieties as a teacher whose inclusive fourth grade classroom contained a high percentage of special need and at risk students.
What made me anxious?
Getting the classroom in order.
New procedures that ate away at preparation and teaching time.
Not having the resources to meet expectations of parents and administrators.
Not meeting the needs of my students.
One additional item created more anxiety than anything else on the list.
Mama Bears. Or Papa Bears. Also known as Mama Tigers. Or Papa Tigers.
They were the parents who climbed the stairs to my classroom on the first day of school with a chip on their shoulders so wide their kids walked a few steps behind them. Their kids looked embarrassed. And scared. And anxious. Just like me. With one difference. I understood they’d become Mama and Papa Bears for a reason.
They were fighting for their children’s futures.
By the time their kids reached fourth grade, they’d been fighting for a long time. They’d been to countless conferences where teachers were bearers of bad news:
Your child’s behavior isn’t age-appropriate.
Your child isn’t reading at grade level.
Your child doesn’t get along with others.
Your child doesn’t listen.
Your child is falling behind.
Your child needs a different placement.
By the time their kids were in fourth grade, after innumerable negative experiences, they perceived their relationships with teachers as us versus them.
But the kids need parents who can move from us versus them to we.
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