April 12, 2024

Standing on the Sidelines

Photo by John Allan

By Elena Jimenez
Special to the Leader

I must admit I felt a little overwhelmed when my 8th grader came at me one evening expressing feelings of anger and frustration (in that dramatic way that only teenagers can) about one of her classes at school.  You see, during her first two years in middle school, my daughter was exposed to a particular teacher who not only inspired her, but motivated and challenged her in ways that made her grow as a student.

Unfortunately for everyone, that teacher is no longer teaching.  Her replacement is new and fresh out of college; she is pleasant and seems enthusiastic, which is great.  I am told that she is liked by the students.  My daughter’s frustration and complaint?  She was not being challenged to her full potential.

My daughter is concerned that she and her peers are losing momentum.  She is concerned that they are being set back with each passing day; that they will fall further behind and will not be able to compete or place in a top position as in years past.  It was not because they are not willing to work for it, but it was because their new teacher is not aware of the extent of their abilities. Her next words were like a dagger to my heart (yes, I realize I’m now being a bit dramatic).

“Mom”, she said.  “It’s as if she doesn’t believe in us.”

I told my daughter, “Hija, write it all down and send it to me in an email”.

“What!?  Why!?  I don’t want to get anyone in trouble!” she said.

“Just write it all down” I told her, and send it to me.  She did as I requested.

I received and read her email the day after our conversation. When I read it, it was equally as passionate as when she and I had spoken, yet more compelling.  It was so well written.  I could tell that it was carefully and thoughtfully crafted.  It contained all the elements of constructive feedback that we should all strive to give and receive.  The time between our conversation and the email had allowed me to think about how I was going to handle this issue with the school.

Yet, as I read her email, something struck me.  I heard this “voice” inside me say, “She is quite capable of handling this for herself and her peers.  Let her.”

This was a huge turning point for me as a parent.  As parents, we get so accustomed to taking care of our children that we often miss the many opportunities to teach them how to do things for themselves.

This was my opportunity to realize my daughters full potential, my opportunity to teach my daughter how to advocate on her own behalf and on the behalf of her others.  This was my opportunity to hand over the reins, “stand by on the sidelines” and watch my daughter grow.

Comments
One Response to “Standing on the Sidelines”
  1. Alice Simmons says:

    As a teacher at first I was aprehensive as to where your point was leading up to; but as I continued reading, the parent in me kicked in! I had an ‘aha’ moment! As parents and teachers it is time for us to start allowing our children to advocate for themselves in certain aspects of their lives. It is also our responsibilty to show & teach them how to do this constructively, especially in regards to their academic success, in and out of the class-room. As adults we tend to be dismissive of our children’s thoughts and concerns or we control most of the steps and decisions that they make. Neither tactic is wrong, it is just when either model us solely used missed teachable moments tend to be over looked. As a parent you was able to recognize an opportunity. Seize it and guide and direct your daughter! Bravo!

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