Friday, March 02, 2007

Holdin It Down

I've been busy.

I've been battling for my world. I've been holdin it down for mine. I'm ride or die.

Mina got her report card this week. It was poor. And there were conflicting comments in the notes section. I realized that the teacher has most certainly pegged Mina as dumb and there is no clawing her way out of it. On her own at least. And I realized I had had enough of that batty woman's horseshit. I'm not letting one overwhelmed and disorganized teacher tell me or my girl that she's anything less than what she is. Mrs. So-n-So is not gonna drag down Mina's academic confidence. No way. Not when I look into deep, little black eyes and see brilliance doing the back stroke up in there.

Since the receipt of the report card, I've been talking to other parents, often and loudly. I've heard many similar stories about past and present second grade students that have been labeled; some of whom are now in GATE or honors classes. I learned what an IEP test is and I demanded one from our principal. Help may follow because of this, begrudgingly -- maybe. Which is why I've also signed Mina up with a tutoring center; an attentive, caring, understanding and expensive tutoring center. I'm not worried about cost. I know this money will come even if I have to sell fifty thousand cupcakes. I am abundant, goddamnit. I am abundant with brilliant children and love; we are wealthy beyond belief. Don't tell me otherwise.

So, there's been that. I've also been thinking a lot -- again, like always. But I don't want to talk about that.

Oh, and my Tivo-like device offered by the local cable company now has a mind of its own. It records things randomly, programs we don't choose. This started a few months ago when I looked on our play list and noticed a soft porn title, something like The Robot Girls of Venus. I grilled my husband nastily and he swore up and down, vehemently and passionately, that he absolutely did not record such crap. We then realized from the date that the show was recorded when we were out of town, when Grandma Carmen was housesitting and watching the girls. We shuttered and then quickly dismissed. Not that Grandma Carmen isn't getting her grove on with a little grindy-grindy B movie, but would she do that in our house, in our ROOM; record it even? Later Husband accused me of recording the Paris and Nicole Richie show. Then I accused him of recording fifty million Pimp My Rides. Now, we'll randomly look at the list to see what new, mysterious show has popped up. Yesterday it was five new episodes of This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

Last night I caught a reading given by a good friend. She and I had met almost a decade ago in a writing workshop. Her third novel just came out in paperback. I crammed myself in the back corner of the historic LA bookstore. I was in a little nook between tall bookcases purposefully getting physical with the books that lined the shelves. They smelled so good. The lighting was dull and terrible in this place; high bulbs let off a lifeless light. My mind wandered a bit as she read, as it sometimes does when she reads, and I looked at the stacks of books on the table and the ripped and curled posters, and I nestled in more against the case. Older intellectual types and hip, young thesis-writing intellectual types listened to her better than I did. I thought about how these types intimidate me. After the reading, my friend signed books and I thumbed through anthologies avoiding my self consciousness that swells around her crowd. And my stomach hurt from wanting this life still so badly. I stood weirdly at bay reading snippets of things; and I didn't feel any less than these people, but more like I don't know what to say when they seem so much more educated and writerly and blahblahblah. My own intelligence seems so raw and unintentional in this setting. Sometimes it makes me feel superior to them. I shuffled over, finally, to my friend and we talked warmly. She has always been supportive and kind to me and she signed my book as she always does: "To a brilliant writer, to a brilliant friend." This always illuminates me, like I'm a child. I left exhilarated by want, beaten down by want. I shrank in the dark as I walked to my car, and in the car I just rested my forehead on the steering wheel.


acumamakiki said...

your words are so real madness. i'm loving the sharing of your world, because the introspection and examination and determination seem to be so much a part of my world, i can relate.

Jonathan K. Cohen said...

Madness, everyone on this blog has been raving about what a genius you are since you started posting. You're going to be intimidated by a couple of lousy graduate students? Not a chance! (These days, graduate students are all talkers of gibberish, anyway.)

As for Mina, I know of a terrific psychologist who does educational evaluations. Once Mina has one of those, certifying her as bright, the teacher will have to start singing another tune.

Anonymous said...

Madness (and this is all coming from mad love and respect), I don't know if talking smack about the teacher to other parents is such a wise choice. It seems like you just want people to validate your frustrations.

What are the conflicting reports? Where is the performance discrepancy? Drop knowledge (your note of the contradictions), not bombs (verbal assaults on the teacher's character/credibility).

Teachers have a very difficult job, and I would be careful about claiming that the teacher has labeled your child as "dumb". Again, I think that just shows your frustration.

Be patient. A masterpiece takes time--it sounds like Mina IS one. Unless Mina is severely challenged in her basic 2nd grade performances, her teacher probably won't request an IEP. I think that it is good that you have taken it upon yourself to get her screened, if it will give you peace of mind. I also want to say that our young learners (K-2) are all over the map in regards to grades on a report card b/c they are developing at different rates. Usually, by 3rd or 4th grade, you start to see more predictable patterns/results.

someone who has been there and absolutely adores your blog

madness rivera said...

Anonymous, you sound like a teacher and if so, I instantly respect you because of it. I also appreciate your loyalty to your peeps. But I'm ride or die for my girls first.

I have always worked with and respected all of the girls' teachers. I have never had a problem with any of them before, and I certainly do not bash for fun or at the expense of teachers in general. I believe teachers are underpaid and are heroes. But this doesn't mean they are all automatically good. On Mina's report card, all of the behavioral marks were all terrible, the worst, yet not once, during all of our conversations, has this teacher mentioned behavioral issues about Mina to me. It was a shock. No mention on the report card either which read: "Mina is a happy and sweet and loving child. And so creative!" This is confusing to me. It sounds patronizing just like every conversation I've had with this teacher. The last time we spoke, I asked her why she doesn't challenge Mina with non-remidial stuff and she said, "Oh, she can't do it." Why would a teacher put out that energy, be so finite, so resolute about what her capabilities are? And I'm supposed to be ok with that? Ok, she can't; you're right because you're a teacher? And now Mina is starting to believe that too, that she can't do certain things. Three months into school, this teacher told me that Mina probably won't pass 2nd grade because she's low level. So yes, I'm completely frustrated, not being able to communicate effectively with this teacher who believes Mina will not pass and cannot do things, and yes I want feedback from other parents and their experiences, from other objective educators that know Mina. I don't have to let a teacher dictate her education especially a teacher that my absolute instinct tells me does not have Mina's best interest at heart. I have a Voice as a parent and I will use it however to get the best education, the best attention for my girl. Isn't that what parents are supposed to do? Fight for them? Kick down doors, even step on toes if they think someone is failing them? Those that know me well know that I am very slow to react to situations. I have examined this from every angle and tried many things with this teacher, but I will not wait until the boat competely sinks on Mina.

I just can't.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am an educator. True dat. I have read your observations and have seen Mina's creative work (jaw dropping how she morphed the p.j. bottoms into a shirt). I wonder what a "tutor" at 2nd grade will do for her intelligence?

As an educator, and someone who deeply respects YOUR intelligence, I would like to help. So, coming from an "expert" I want to tell you the following:
1)If the teacher is leading on that Mina will NOT pass 2nd grade and has NOT requested an IEP...then shame, shame, shame, on that "teacher" (cuz she certainly doesn't represent me or my peeps).
2)If Mina has had behavoiral issues , that shouldn't affect her academic grade. VERY CRUCIAL.
Not only that, but that teacher should be calling or emailing you when ever there is an issue.
3)At this point in the year, nothing should be a surprise. If the teacher is waiting until now...too bad so sad...she failed. Not Mina.
4)Where does Mina sit? Does her proximity to the teacher need to change? Does her grouping need to change? Is she receiving feedback from her teacher? For every negative response, I try and give at least 4 positives if not more in one hour.
5)What is the problem, exactly? Maybe Mina is bored? Look at her motivation (value X confidence=motivation)Does she value the information? Is she confident in achieving the lesson objectives?

I am trying to help you to better communicate with the teacher. I didn't mean to sound so defensive of a teacher I have never met...I think that, in my experience, there is this weird relationship between parents and teachers. I wish we could all just act as a team more effectively. You know?

Much love!

madness rivera said...

Now we're getting somewhere . . .but can you email me directly? I am interested in talking more in depth about this with you. Thank you!

Deezee said...

Your description of the booksigning touched my soul. Wish I'd been there beside you and we could discuss the longing.

And I applaud your not caving in to this teacher's low expectations.

ESB said...

WHOA. as always, it's so amazing to come here and read how you tackle these genuine challenges with such dignity and perseverance....your girls are extremely lucky to have a mother like you.....

and re: the writer thing: don't worry about those other writers and that "life"....being "educated" in that realm means next to's your brain and what you're doing with it on paper that counts, and you certainly don't have to worry about that....

White Trasherati said...

Hey Awesome Mami: I read your blog EVERY DAY. I don't go to the bookstore that often. And I'm a former grad student : )
Your writing moves and inspires me, and I wish I could purchase 50 bazillion cupcakes.

Rebel Girl said...

xo to you

more where that is coming from ---

Kathleen said...

kick that teacher's ass.

Kathleen said...

i just went back and read all of the comments...and i will agree with anonymous in that it is strange that mina's teacher is waiting until NOW to tell you that she may fail 2nd grade. argh.
this should not be a surprise since she should have been telling you this earlier.
also...if she really is struggling so much, an IEP should have been suggested earlier, i agree.

i am so sorry that you have to go through all of this.

hang in there, and if i can help in any way, let me know, mama.

The Kitschen Table said...

What a lucky little girl Mina is to have such a fiercely devoted Mama.

Archie Belaney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Archie Belaney said...

bless you for being your child's advocate. I didn't have one and I truly had to fight the same label throughout elementary school right on in to high school. I have met some of these teachers as an adult and I see now that they were lazy snd bullies. Labelling was just easier than nurturing.