My last three years teaching full time were spent in a small private school where I taught 9th and 10th graders. As in, all the 9th and 10th graders. Because it was such a small school, we didn't track.
Except we so did.
My second year, one of my co-workers (yes, that means she was a teacher too) had a son in the 9th grade. During our inservice, she came into my room and asked to see my class lists. I innocently (naively) said yes.
"Wait, why is he in this class? This looks like the bad class."
I didn't know what to say. "Oh, you know it's not like that." Except we both knew it was.
Now, I love her kid (and not just in that "Oh, Mrs. Story, you love everyone" kind of way. okay, not entirely). He's funny, sweet, and a great skateboarder. But if there was going to be a slower English class? He probably needed to be in it.
She pouted. Stormed down to the office. Pitched a fit to get him switched.
Then for the next two years I had to hear all about how he was misunderstood, how he was lazy. He wasn't and he wasn't. He was struggling.
I have an SAT student now who is struggling. He probably shouldn't go to a four year college, at least not right away, but I can't say that. When his parents tell me what their goals are, I have to do a double-take. Are they talking about their child? He fights to bring his scores up, but he just doesn't understand. It breaks me heart. He isn't the first.
I come home and look at my baby girl, my little love. She was a late crawler, a late sitter. She doesn't say "mama" yet, not even when she's babbling. I'm not really sure she's signing.
And I worry. My husband and I are smart people. Academically smart. And everyone tells us how smart Baby Girl is sure to be.
And I hate it. Because what if she's not?
I want to help her. I want her to have every opportunity in the world. But if she isn't gifted, if she isn't college bound, if she struggles, I want her to know that's okay.
I want her to know that I see her, and that I love the child I have, not the child I wish she was. Because she's my baby. And she always will be.