Dear teacher, I wish I could tell you.

by Janelle Hanchett

To my son’s teacher,

I know he didn’t do exactly what you said. I know you said “write an essay” and make sure you use topic sentences and correct punctuation and I know these things are important (I am a writer, you see, I get it), and I know my boy didn’t do that. You said use cursive. He didn’t do that either.

I wish I could tell you how he sat at the table working on his paragraphs for 4 hours over many days and how when he was finished he came into my room 5 times in 20 minutes to check if the baby was asleep yet so I could read the words he wrote “totally by himself.”

I wish I could tell you that last week he lied to us again about his assignments and I failed to check and I didn’t know about the writing project due last week. I wish I could tell you how we talked to him about facing hard things and how even if it seems easier in the moment to deny and pretend it’s not happening, we have to face the challenges of our lives.

And so this week, with this essay, he’s facing the super hard thing.

I wish I could tell you how hard it is. I wish I could tell you how he didn’t talk until 3 years old and came home from preschool with migraines and would curl on the bathroom floor in pain. I wish I could tell you how I took him out and homeschooled him after that and how he could not not not not not learn any letters at all and I would lose my patience. I would lose my patience with my learning disabled son so I wish I could I tell you I GET IT. I get how hard it is to teach these kids.

Still, I wish I could beg you to tell him what a great job he did on this essay and how proud you are because he worked so hard. I wish I could ask you to say this in spite of the phonetic spelling and words running together and lack of punctuation or topic sentences or cursive.

But I probably won’t.

I probably won’t because being the mom of a learning-disabled kid means walking the line – no, skinny ass thread – between “helicopter enabler mom” and “letting the kid own what’s his” mom. Between “not catering to laziness” and “protecting a child in a system that wasn’t created for him.”

Between helping a kid own his disability while defending him against unnecessary exercises in futility that serve only to make him feel more stupid. How much is the disability? How much is his personality? Where do I end? Where do you begin?

But we don’t talk about this at IEP meetings. We talk about auditory processing disorders and rapid naming disorders and “2nd grade instructional” reading levels and another battery of tests so he can keep his IEP. I know when we’re doing those anyway, before you even mention it, because he turns deathly quiet before school, again.

I suggest perhaps they’re unnecessary since he’s not going to magically become un-dyslexic. But I know it’s about funding. I know there are so many kids in your class. I know how hard you work. I know about teaching. I did it, though with college kids. I could never handle a bunch of ten-year-olds and their fucking parents.

But I have to hold you accountable and that feels weird. I have to intervene. I have to watch like a damn hawk. Not because you are a bad teacher (although he’s had one of those), but because the system wasn’t built for kids like him.

I wish I could tell you about first grade and how it was okay and second grade and how it wasn’t okay and how he was shoved out of a chair and dragged across the room by his collar and nobody even told me. I wish I could tell you how he learned NOTHING that year except fear and separateness and I took him out again, for healing. He got 15 minutes a day with a brand-new resource teacher who had no idea how to teach dyslexic kids. I had to refer her to options. That was when we lived in a poor town full of poor kids. And apparently if you’re dyslexic and poor, you’re fucked.

I wish I could tell you how we moved for 3rd grade to get to nicer schools because I knew my son’s education and possibly life depended on that. I wish I could tell you the guilt I felt that I even had that option but how in third grade his teacher wrapped her love and strength around him in a way that made 2nd grade and preschool and his impatient mother dim into damn near nothing and his reading specialist and special ed teacher (who he spends an HOUR with every day) taught him to read. And he worked. And he worked. And he went from a pre-k reading level to 2nd grade instructional in one year. And they loved him. And he spoke in front of the class.

And I sat in the back and wept.

I wish I could tell you this journey, so you see the 4th grader standing before, beyond “daydreaming” or “off task again.” I wish I could tell you this so you know what you’re looking at when you get his paper so far “behind.” So lacking. So not following the rules.

I wish I could tell you so could see the ten thousand hours of fear and desperation and love and fighting and strength that live in each misspelled word, each scratched out, run-together line, and how his eyes beamed blue and bright and proud when he held it out to me and asked, “Do you think my teacher will like it?”

I wish you could have seen my face.



End of the year gift for his special ed teacher.

105 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | February 4, 2016
  • Lee

    Tell her( or him).

    Tell them. It’s so important. Tell the teacher.

  • Just Jill


  • Nicky

    Man I just wish the teacher didn’t have to be told the utter awesomeness that is this wonderful boy. He’s going to do great out there in the world – no doubt!

  • Jena

    Thanks for this… I feel it.

  • Daddy Scratches

    I say “Tell the teacher.” Not that you want any advice from some dipshit blogger, but what you wrote was very impassioned. I’d be tempted to print it out and hand it to the teacher alongside your son’s paper.

    Either way, I hope the teacher does right by your son. Hang in there.

  • Annie

    As a teacher, I would encourage an email or phone call or conference or whatever to express these feelings. The teacher can’t do much (our hands get just as tied thanks to admin) but you will know you and Rocket are heard and understood.

    • Julie

      Teachers can show respect to children. They can be compassionate, patient and kind. Teachers can coach, encourage and demonstrate empathy, inclusion, and love of learning — qualities and characteristics that create bonds with children and aren’t limited by administrative rules or red tape. Budgets, time and resources limit teachers, but our hands are not tied when it comes to being someone we would want teaching our own children.

    • Thelma

      Teachers hands are not tied many if not most decided to agree with their administration knowing our children are needing services. My daughters story is very similar to this article. I wish my daughter had at least one teacher who stood up for her and fought for her to get her services. My daughter wasted 4 years of school not learning a single thing failed year after year and not one teacher bothered to say “Hey shes struggling we need to do something’. So when you see a child not want to cooperate not complete a task think to yourself 1 in 5.

  • Erin

    ***Huggg*** It’s SO hard sometimes, Mama. The system wasn’t built for my second son either. We plod, we fight, I cry. I love your writing and identify with so much. Keep on keepin’ on.

  • Heather in Oregon

    Well that just laid me flat. Tell the teacher because you and Rocket both deserve to be heard.

  • D

    Tell her, for sure.

  • Carrie

    Janelle, you are such a great advocate for your children. This makes me want to cry. I’m so glad he has you to look out for him. You are doing what moms are supposed to be doing, being an advocate and a buffer, caring with all your heart.

  • Mary

    My favorite parents are the ones who tell me EVERYTHING you said, and especially, why you are reticent to do so. You care. About your son and about not offending “us”, and I’m certain that will be appreciated, unless the teacher is a total butthole. The number one thing that has helped me be the teacher I am is this: remembering that every kid is someone’s “baby”. And as a mom, I know what that means. If this teacher is worth his/her salt, you’ll be able to express this without being thought of as HELLicopter mom.

    • Jodie

      I’m a teacher and a mom of a boy who’s having challenges at school too. And I couldn’t agree more with Mary’s comments.

    • katy allred

      yes, yes, yes! what Mary said

  • Kelly

    This is a beautifully honest post. As a teacher of young kids, I wish more parents would let me in on the full history/journey that has brought their children to me. Some are embarrassed, some defensive, some very private. I would tell her. If she’s any good at her profession, she’ll be glad to know your son better.

  • heather

    Thank you. thank you. thank you. You have given words to the struggle. I feel it as once being that kid with a learning disability and now as a mom with kids with learning disabilities. The time for voice, the time for encouraging another’s voice and the time to just support are so blurred. I have to go have a little cry right now, before I put on my mom hat.

  • Stephanie

    Don’t tell the teacher anything; just send her this on your best white paper and say, “Thank you.” Because as much as you want success for your son, she does too.

    xo, pal

  • Lori

    Tell the teacher. Just hand her this very column, because it’s perfect. And while you’re at it, send copies to every member of the school board. Because Rocket isn’t the only one. And when you advocate for Rocket, you advocate for all those other kids at the same time. When they hear it often enough, and honestly enough, and poignantly enough–and it doesn’t get better than this–something will happen. This insane, mechanized system of “education” wasn’t designed for Rocket or for any other human child. And the only thing that will humanize it is–humans. You’ve got that down. This is your gift. Use it.

  • S

    I am a teacher – and the mother of a learning disabled son who is now 18, he’s been in 4 different schools,repeated his sophomore year of high school. Send her an email tonight and let her know how hard he has worked – she will want to know and you will feel better. I try so hard to let my son advocate for himself, some days he does, but most days he just wants to get out of school and forget about it all and hope it will get better. trust your instincts as to when to step in/advocate. Best piece of advice I have received so far is this – as he grows let him try out any activity he might be interested in – we are broke thanks to Lacrosse but he loves it. I have been a teacher for over 25 years – I can tell when a child is in good hands and your child is. But it’s going to be a heartbreaking and exhausting journey for you all

  • Katie

    Well, shit. Now I’m done.

    I have 4 kids, too, and one of mine (so far) has brought me to my knees time and time again. This is the letter I wish I could give his teachers. He’s not dyslexic, but has a dump truck full of other crap to deal with. That crap, combined with my own crap, has made the last 15 years one hell of a ride. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve ugly cried at the back of many a classroom.

    Please. PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE, give the teacher the letter. It’s perfect.

    Also, I’m not sure I can sleep until I know how this turns out, so let us know that, too. 🙂

  • Lou Taylor

    Whether you tell her or not, I think it’s safe to say you have one of the luckiest kids on the planet for having a MOM like you. With you in his corner he will find the way to brilliance. No doubt.

  • Momofone

    Send her this link.


  • Kate

    This happens way too much. 25 percent of the American population is dyslexic, in my school district we have a 25 percent dropout rate. Pretty easy math to see which population of kids is being missed as teachers don’t know how to teach to dyslexic students. My son had medical documentation of dyslexia in 6th grade, finally got an IEP in 11th grade which the teachers never honored because he was so smart and tested so high. (In the meantime he was labeled emotionally disturbed and our family was blamed – another case of bureaucratic bullying) And they abandoned him, never encouraging him to achieve a high school diploma. He took his GED with three out of five honors scores. Imagine how he might have achieved if teachers had known how to help him learn. Don’t give up the fight, Janelle.

  • Sassyscholar

    I hope she doesn’t crush him. His hopes, and his desire to please. I guess I would tell her. Maybe not everything in your post, but the basic bare-knuckle truth. “It ain’t perfect, it almost certainly isn’t what you were expecting, but it’s genuine, it was produced at huge cost to Rocket, and he genuinely tried.”
    My son had a teacher who blew him out of the water every time. He was diagnosed dysgraphic. She couldn’t be bothered to try to read his creative efforts. Ridiculed him in front of the other kids. I asked to see her. She told me “Stop looking out for your son, you’re over-protecting him”. Err, isn’t that what parents do ? I actually asked her if she had kids of her own …
    We switched schools. He’s doing fine now.
    I’m hoping Rocket gets the respect and recognition he deserves from his teachers. Huge hugs to you both.

  • Shannon

    Oh, how I wonder how things could have gone for myself if my mother had understood me then instead of learning about me when I was already an adult. And oh how I pray I know how to know my children – who seem to have a much better grasp at learning than I did.

  • Annie V.

    You made me snotty cry. Again. 🙂

  • Carrie S

    Every single word resonates.
    We got our first IEP in place yesterday, and I came home from that meeting feeling like She-Ra riding the Unicorn. But every other meeting we’ve had over the past year and a half left us feeling deflated, defeated and depressed. When we started this journey, I told a friend (who also has 2e kids) that I didn’t want to be “That Mom,” and she told me “Accept it now. You HAVE to be That Mom. Go get yourself the t-shirt. If you don’t advocate for your kid, nobody else will.”

    • Karrie

      YES we do have to advocate for our kids because no one else will. Well written!!!

  • Bec

    I’m a teacher. Tell her. Please, tell her.

    Rocket is amazing.

  • Diane

    I’ve got one of those kids too – he’s amazing and smart and funny, and so creative, and if all his teachers were like his kindergarten teacher, we’d be lost right now. But first grade – I want to hug her. Every day. She’s taking him under her wing, and it’s glorious.

    So tell Rocket’s teacher. Write a letter to her, to his OT, his reading specialist and to the IEP team. Tell everyone.

  • Corey

    Just print this. Print it, put it in an envelope, and send it in. It matters.

    And FWIW, my kid with learning disabilities is now a 16 year old high school freshman (because I held her back twice, and then sent her to a school we couldn’t afford, specifically for kids with LDs), and while I still have to fight to keep her IEP every single year, she is an honor roll student, and the hardest working kid I’ve ever seen.


  • Scottiev

    Carrie S is right. Tell the teacher, be his advocate. This is awesome. You recognized him for his hard work, I’m sure his teacher wants to as well in some way of she sees him. I think most teachers want to know how to encourage their students. I can’t imagine she/he wouldn’t want to know.

  • Heather aka HoJo

    As a former teacher, I would have LOVED the gift he presented! This little guy worked his tail off. The teacher needs to recognize that. You’re not being a helicopter by speaking up for your child! Students who learn differently need a wonderful team of people in their corner! Do what in your heart feels best! Any teacher worth their grain of salt will understand. 🙂

  • Tara

    I’m a high school teacher, and even at that level I would truly appreciate any parent communicating with me (especially if it’s done so thoughtfully and articulately). With class sizes ever-expanding, any helpful insight I can have into my students can help me better assess the situation in order to help your child the most. Never feel bad providing teachers with information that will help.

  • Karrie

    My son who is now 14 1/2 years, was diagnosed with bi-lateral wilms tumor (cancer in both kidneys). He went through 4 years of heavy chemo, 6 days of radiation and we had lived in the hospital at times for weeks. He had his entire right kidney removed and a football size tumor and 2/3 of his left kidney removed, leaving him with 1/3 of 1 kidney.It sucked. He didn’t speak until he was almost 5 years old because he didn’t have to he was sick or in the hospital. So I became the helicopter mom.
    We moved to a great city in Illinois because the school district is one of the best. Yes one of the best if your kid is “normal” and can play sports and you’re a short haired, van driving soccer mom (no offense to anyone). The school talked me into registering him in school that fall because they had a great IEP system (looking back it seems like they had to meet a quota). They had an in class assistant who would actually focus on my sons disabilities and embarrass him.
    My son still struggles, he still gets teased because he can’t play contact sports. I try to explain to him this will and has made him stronger. He is shy and still has social issues (like making friends) he can’t approach a kid or a group of them in fear he will say something embarrassing so he chooses to stay quiet.
    He only has 1/3 of 1 kidney left and will need a transplant soon.
    My point to my rant is I get it and I can’t let it go. This article hits home like you wouldn’t believe. Thank you for writing it because there are so many days when “I Wish I could Tell Them”

  • Michelle

    I have 3 LD kids.

    Tell the teacher. Print this out and give it to her. Please.

  • Jen

    I am in tears after reading this. I was a teacher for nine years and now I stay home with my son. It really made me think about all of my students and how much they meant and still do mean to me. Please, please, please give this exact post to his teacher. It is written so beautifully. Every teacher should read it just to remind themselves that every child has a story. It touched my heart and when I go back to teaching I will always remember this post and ask each parent their child’s story. Especially my struggling students. Thank you for writing this.

  • Tasha

    I hope you will tell his teacher. Even though the assignment was late, and not quite as directed, I hope his pride in his hard work will be recognized at school. Especially because he’s so excited to show it to her. Sending all my best wishes that he will be shown the compassion he deserves. And the same for all the kids who don’t fit the mold academically or socially. Thank you for sharing your children’s stories.

  • cassie

    It is heartbreaking as a teacher too (I was one). I dealt with almost 200 kids per week in my classes and I hated the sense of helplessness – of not having the time or capacity to help all the students that needed helping.

    I have tried to reach out when I could, but at the end of the day it is impossible to always remember and always hit the nail on the head with the right word at the right time for that kid who just needed it.

    (Oh, and PS I have read all the rubbish essays – don’t be fooled by what you see on tv, all kids write shitty shit, even the best of them.)

    Further to that, I did supervise a class of senior students once, they kept asking me about topic sentences and throwing meta words around.. but when I read their work it was worse then rubbish, and no matter how much I tried to get them to write good content they were just obsessed with writing a technically perfect essay that the content was lost.

  • Kitty

    I grew up with learning disabilities.. It was horrible and I had no voice.. Reading this brought me to tears as I read it to my family. Show the teachers. They need to hear this.

  • Emily

    This is perfect, share this. Staple it to the top. We don’t go in to teaching because we dont care. We know we need to work with parents and children for best outcomes. Tell her! Or him!

  • Molly

    Tell her. Definitely. Tell her no response is needed – it’s not. But tell her.

  • N

    I hope Rocket’s teacher reads this blog. She needs to read it. Rocket deserves for her to know everything you wrote, everything you and Rocket have been through. My eyes are burning from mascara and ugly tears. My son struggles in school. It breaks my heart to see him struggle and not be able to help him.

  • Margaret

    I think maybe you are in my head. Or my kitchen. Or my son’s classroom. Because, I’ve so been there. With my 10 year old. And the run-on, phonetic spelling, block letter efforts. And the “not all kids are on the same level” approach. And the “why is he the class clown” approach. And his fear of failure and fear of not understanding masked by his desire to be like everyone else. And his knowledge, because he is so damn smart, that he is NOT like everyone else. He had that teacher who tries so hard, who finds the light, the spark, to get him to understand. And he had the one who did not get him at all, or care to understand. He’s in a good place now, most days, but my god is the journey so damn HARD.

    Please share this with his teacher. From another mom walking that “skinny ass thread”.

  • Ellen

    Weeping. Such respect for what parents witness and hold. It is awesome in the true sense of that word. As is his journey. and you.

  • zoe

    Weeping in the dentist waiting room. Damn the fucking system.

  • Tina E.

    I went Tuesday to our state Capitol to tell our Governor, our Lieutenant Governor, our elected officials, (even my representative and neighbor who pretty much blew me off) that dyslexic kids matter. Tell the teacher. Tell that beautiful boy of yours how incredibly awesome it is what he did even though it was so stinking hard. My son will be ten next week and he’s had the teachers who were clueless and teachers who put up with his defiance and shitty attitude because they believed in him, even though he’d given up on himself back in Kindergarten. And we’re still barely moving the needle on the reading. We’re finally edging into a 2nd grade level in the 4th grade. And these schools make me crazy. And so I make a very nice stink about it all and ride the administrators in our district like polo ponies. All year long. Your son’s gifts, like my own son’s gifts will shine through in the end. It’s just insanely hard getting from point A to B.

  • Emily MacGregor

    Janelle, that was so beautifully written. Thank you for writing and being so true.

  • Oana

    Tell her. If she is a teacher of any value, you have nothing to lose and much to gain. If she responds to this in any way less than stellar, you will know she (or he) is an arsehole and at least will be so advised. Courage!

  • Marie

    My husband has learning disabilities. Today he owns a construction company that does $20 million a year in sales and has 60 employees. He was just like your son, except in the 80s and 90s there were no special programs and he was passed through the system. He graduated high school barely reading, thinking he was too dumb, but knowing how to work on cars and build things. When I met him he was 26 and bored out of his mind at his job. I was one of those kids who skated through school and had a graduate degree. I offered to do his bookwork if he started his own business. So he did. He always complained about not being smart and not being able to hold his own in a conversation about politics or economics or finances. So he started listening to books on cd. With the advent of iBooks audiobooks – he now consumes about a book a day. Anytime he’s in his truck he is “reading.” Somehow listening to all those books actually improved his real reading somewhat. But guess what – he’s hired the smartest people he possibly can. And he has no qualms about asking his assistant to write his emails while he dictates to her. Everyone in the office knows that if he needs to sign something – they need to read it to him. So….the system may not be designed for your son. But he can chart his own path and be even better off for it.

    • Meg

      Marie, your husband’s path is really interesting. Not sure if you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath, but there’s a whole chapter in that book about the high percentage of very successful people who have dyslexia. The premise of the book is that sometimes the the things that we think are our own or another group’s weakest point (David’s size, for example) are the very things that allow them to be successful. The dyslexic people that Gladwell interviewed all attributed their success to their disability because it forced them to learn differently and be attentive, intense listeners who pick up on details that people without dyslexia miss. Your husband is another example of that premise. Anyway, it’s interesting and you should check it out!

  • Shaye

    Holy. Shit. You literally moved me to sobbing tears. Uncontrollable tears.

  • bonnie

    As my 14 year spends 2-3 hours writing a one page assignment independently using predictive writing software I could just about cry. Because she did it herself not the two of us fighting for hours trying to get the thoughts and ideas out of her head and onto paper. I don’t know how that paper will be marked but hopefully it will be ok ,never will the teacher know how much time and effort was put into that one page,but for us it is an accomplishment.

  • Neena Hanchett

    I read every comment and feel compelled to ask you to let Rocket’s teacher know about the level of effort that went into his assignment. He has always been a special, special child; full of love and wonder.In my mind, that means something very special. Love you Rocket (always have)! Neenee

  • Lauren

    As a teacher….

    If she’s worth her salt, she knows.

  • Joodz

    Oh now you’ve gone and made me cry.

  • Shannon Thomson

    Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

  • Blair

    I totally feel for you Janelle. All children deserve the free, public education that they need and it is infinitely frustrating that after all your efforts it is still out of reach and seemingly dependent on the right teacher. I think about the thousands or millions of children across the nation who do not have that teacher and wonder how those students find that teacher. Also interesting that all the other comments assume the teacher you are addressing is as woman, just goes to show societies assumptions about who teaches.

  • Amanda

    you get it. you put amazing words to all I have ever felt about my special needs sons and school. weeping.

  • Jennifer

    As a former teacher and a mom to three LD kids, tell the teacher – give the teacher this letter. Don’t be silent. Tell the teacher. And tell Rocket how amazing he is. I’m sure you do, but tell him again.

  • Nadine

    Ugly crying at work, like audible sobs.
    Your son is a lucky kid, simply because you think the things you do and feel the things you do. He is lucky for you.

  • Amy DuBois

    TELL HER! As a Mom and as a teacher in a former life…I beg you to share this post with Rocket’s teacher. I have a son with ADHD, so I feel your pain, I feel your pride, I feel the way you love him in way we wish their educators could. Rocket, you should be VERY proud of your work, your effort, your passion, and your finished project! Everyone in this whole wide world is different – if all the crayons in the box were the same color, it would make for some very boring pictures! Rock on, keep doing your very best, and NEVER let anyone tell you you’re less than amazing <3 Hugs to you both!

  • Monica

    As a teacher and parent of an aspbergers child, I promise you she wants to know. We always want to know, it helps us to help you. Rocket is lucky to have you, as many have said, you are the one who needs to be there for him, who else will be his advocate, his champion.

  • mom

    “I knew my son’s education and possibly life depended on that.”

    I have felt the weight of that and the guilt of leaving a school that’s resources were stretched thin. I wanted to be one of the parents that made that school better by being present and volunteering in the classroom. But the truth is I was barely hanging on by my fingertips.

    We moved my daughter to private Montessori for a few years, in my mind, mainly to heal. It was a scramble to make it happen – but it was worth it.(The pros and cons of being around people with a ton more resources than you is a whole other subject.)

  • valerie

    I probably won’t because being the mom of a learning-disabled kid means walking the line – no, skinny ass thread – between “helicopter enabler mom” and “letting the kid own what’s his” mom. Between “not catering to laziness” and “protecting a child in a system that wasn’t created for him.”

    ^^^^ so much this. my son does not have dyslexia, but he was reading at a first grade level up until the fifth grade when he finally started making progress. he’s had an iep since second grade for attention and planning deficiencies. this past wednesday, i had his iep meeting for his first year in high school. his reading support teacher told me he is currently one of the best readers in her class. all those years of trying to walk that line, i finally feel just a tiny bit vindicated. my kid doesn’t fit into the system, and that is not a reflection of his potential or his intelligence. my kid doesn’t learn the way most kids do, ’15 minutes of homework’ has always been 2+ hours in our house (and therefore stopped happening – oh the fights), but i have always known that the hits his self confidence have taken over years and years of being ‘that kid’ who doesn’t do essays or reading logs were far more detrimental to his progress than earning straight f’ or miserably failing endless SOLS and benchmarks. like i tell my kid, he has to play the game on their turf, for now. eventually the world is going to open up for him, and for rocket too.

  • Bernie

    You say you cried writing the post…I cried reading it. I am a teacher. I get it. Thank you for being the mom you are today…and yesterday…

  • tam

    I had tears in my eyes reading this. No one knows or understands unless they live thru the hours of homework to only get 1/2 a page done (if that). Or when you have a kid repeat a grade because the 1st time they went thru it, it ended up being state paid babysitting. There were days that no matter how many times we bribed, cajoled and shamed to say, threatened, he wouldn’t even write his name on his paper. How it took longer than it should have for me to realize that he is not going to be a 4.0 student and that if I can get all Cs out of him, that I still have tears in my eyes as the ones that get honor roll every time. That my 6’4″, 16 year old boy who absolutely excels at anything with a ball but has a hard time putting his thoughts on paper is not just being lazy. That when I tell you that you truly only have 15 minutes to teach him what you want him to know, I’m not lying. So stop wasting your 15 mins. Don’t tell me that since he tests well that he shouldn’t have problems in the classroom when I’ve told you countless times, once he gets it he gets it, but until then, he struggles. It doesn’t mean he’s not as smart or smarter than the other kids, he just learns differently. And I don’t want to take it out on you but you’re taking it out on him. I worry about who he’ll be and how others will perceive him as an adult, because we’re almost there.

    Don’t beat yourself up with guilt Janelle because we’ve all been there. And you could have never let him down because in the end you are still his mom fighting for him everyday.

  • Kim

    I want to share this with my students! I am a professor of education (and an ex third grade teacher) and I am always telling my students how important it is to talk to their students’ families, to get to know their students, to love them and honor each and every one for each and every bit of who they are. I want them to go out into the world and wrap their students with love- even when those little stinkers seem unlovable because that’s when they need love the most. I want them to know how hard it is to teach in a system that is so flawed and so not built for kiddos who most need our kindness and support.

    Thank you for being an awesome mom and hang in there-know that there are lots of us out here who think you are a rockstar!!

  • Dawn

    No words, but thanks, you are not alone. Amazing as usual.

  • Kristen

    Love this post! My boy is like your boy in many ways. Thank you!

  • Thelma

    Why are so many of our stories so similar? I cried as I read this because I felt so much of a resemblance to my daughters story.

  • Angela Baronello

    Wow, I’m a mess after that. So much truth, desperation and hope tied into one.

  • Gina

    My ten year old has dyslexia/processing problems/etc. What is handed in to the teacher looks like a half-assed ten minutes of work – it never gets pinned-up on the display board with all the beautifully written homework handed in by other classmates, but what the teacher isn’t witness to, is the two hours of anxiety, tears, frustration, rewrites it takes to produce. Seriously considering videoing the whole homework experience and submitting it as a ‘performance piece’. Much love to you.

  • Kathy

    Thank you for this. We are just beginning our journey with our twin 8 year old girls. I’m printing this out and sending it to their teachers! Thank you, thank you!!

  • Jenny

    And I’m crying…… I mean I could have wrote this about my daughter. I feel so incredibly alone and ill equipped when it comes to parenting her. We have yet to have that amazing breakthrough teacher. Only incredibly hard teachers who don’t understand her or why she behaves the way she does. I’m praying HARD for that to change next school year. Meanwhile, homeschooling is on my mind every day but I am so impatient too….. 🙁 it’s comforting to know I’m not alone though. No matter how much it feels like
    I (we) am. ????

  • Miah

    I have a five year old who struggles every day in Kindergarten. I talk a lot with the teacher — I volunteered to be the class mom, which has enabled me to have extra time with her. She is so grateful to have my input on my son because she could see he was hurting and she didn’t understand why. I didn’t either, and we talked ourselves into a solution that really works over the course of the year. We were both open to ideas. I think most teachers don’t want to see a child in pain. I stand back on the playground, I don’t intervene in the class, but I think it’s fair to speak up for him because I have a larger vocabulary than he does to offer the teacher so that she can see him. I always believe there is a magic sentence that when a person hears it, they suddenly see/understand something they didn’t before — fof my son with this teacher it was telling him he wants to be an artist and comes home and draws immediately, every day. For her that meant something, and it clicked, and she made a couple changes that mattered. Good luck! I agree — share this letter. Or shrae the content of it with her in a heart to heart. Much love to you all.

  • Rachel

    This really hit home. Just had an IEP meeting yesterday for my 9 year old w/ Asperger’s(?)–no official diagnosis yet. We are thinking about moving too. Sad that you have to go through this too, just know you’re not alone.

  • Janet

    I’m in complete awe of your writing – your ability to capture how we all feel in such a raw and honest way. Thank you. Don’t stop.

  • Lisa

    I just came back and read this for a second time. Cried again. The system wasn’t built for my son either and I know how hard it is. Your son is lucky to have you. And…none of my business…but his teacher should know – please tell her what a special, hard-working boy you have. Thank you for putting this into words.

  • Sandy

    I’m a teacher.
    Tell her.
    Give her the letter.
    I’m ashamed to say it but sometimes in the underfunded madness with 28+ kids my best is never enough. I don’t have enough help most days to reach them all. I don’t see everything I should see. I want to reach them all. EVERY time a parent tells me something like this it is so IMPORTANT for all of us. Messages like these help me do my best job with kids. I can’t tell you how many times a phone call to or from a parent has helped us immensely in the classroom.
    If she’s like most of us she will never forget it.
    In a good way.

  • denise

    Oh my. That was so beautiful. As a mother of a child with dyslexia and a Certified Barton tutor (for dyslexia) I have to say that I feel everything you wrote. All of it. I walk that line with my daughter. I help the kids I tutor. I watch all of them struggle and persevere and work so hard and fucking suit up and show up every damn day. They amaze me. And I am super proud of your son.

  • Rose Gilbert

    I am in tears. Memories crashing over me. She always worked SO DAMN hard. she did/is doing it though. It’s all paying off, and she is the hardest working of my 4 kids. Not all the way there yet; not out of the tunnel yet, but I/she can see the fucking light at the end and it is awesome. Breath and tackle another day. It’s all any of us can do.

  • Clara

    Simply beautiful truth. And all the parental feelings. How hard and wonderful it is to parent our kids.

  • Sharon

    This is the most powerful piece you’ve written.

  • Giannine

    This. Just this. Made me cry. Thank you for putting into words what parents with dyslexic kids go through. The struggle, frustration, the doubt and the pride with the small successes. Thank you!

  • Michelle

    I can completely relate to this. But your LD child learned to read through the school system, and to me that is a huge blessing and a wonder. I had to fight in ways you can’t believe even to get the help, and I had to let him fail to use the law to do it. So sad what we put these kids through, and how strong they can become.

  • Beth

    This sums up my sons life as well. Except kindergarten was his worse year with 2 teachers picking on him, calling him stupid and embarrassing him in front of the class. Putting him in a baby chair and the list goes on and on. None of this I knew until the following year when another child that was in his class told me. How I felt like I failed him. It was not the last. Now in fourth grade we are getting the help he needs. With a caring tutor who gives hours more than she should, but with the constant improvements in his reading and his self confidence she can’t possible quite when the hour is up, so she pushes on. She is as proud of him as I am. One teacher can make all the difference. Thanks for sharing the struggles that we all go through trying to balance all that we must.

  • Marie Richards-Cochrane

    I have tears running down my face. You are a wonderful mother. Tell the teacher. Print your letter and give it to her. She will be very grateful and your son will also thank you. I have many family members who are or have been teachers. Mostly they are disillusioned because when they send a letter to parents to have a discussion re their child they do not get a response. If any of them were your child’s teacher they would love to hear from you and would have increased knowledge to help and understand him at his level. A few years ago I had a parent come to me at a grandparents function and ask me if I was Mrs ?? (My daughter) mother. When I said yes she told me what a wonderful teacher she was. It was the first ime she didn’t have trouble getting her daughter to school as her 10 year old daughter had poor concentration and had previously been in trouble for this. Teachers usually only want what is best for their students. They really care.

  • Charise

    I feel your frustration. My son has Down syndrome and is in his 3rd school at 7 yrs of age. We aren’t moving him, his program keeps moving. We never know where he will be the next school year or how far the school will be. Every year is the new normal… getting him acclimated to a new school, new teacher, etc. Always a challenge…

  • Jennifer

    I feel for you. 3 of my 4 children are dyslexic. My youngest is still going though remediation where he is actually learning to read through the Barton Reading System. He is in 9th grade. He can write a paragraph and take a very short test in writing. I tell people he has a “Brain Difference”. He is so smart and remembers everything he hears and sees (ie a movie, TV, or audio book) My oldest is in college and has to work through her dyslexia on college tests. She is doing great also. These are amazing people – these “brain different” people. They are awesome!!

  • Kimberly

    Oh man!!!! Read this and just cried!!! I worry so much about my first child like this! He is such an amazing,brilliant boy,but also is dyslexic, like his father,and has trouble with numbers, like me. I held him back last year for fear of him being sooo far behind that he would never feel like he stood a chance and give up.(I understand this feeling) and he didn’t start really talking till after his 4th birthday,I tried,he tried,his father works with him constantly also. I just love him soo much that I would do anything to keep him from feeling inadequate, or less than,because he’s soooo much more. Unfortunately, I know I can’t protect him from these things forever, I can only try n teach him better than that,and be there when he falls. Am I wrong? Still,it scares me.

  • Jen

    I’m crying, because you just described me and my boy. He is 10, in 4th grade, didn’t speak until he was 3, etc etc. We have been lucky in that I adore his school and all of his teachers, but reading and writing and math are still big bugaboos. We don’t know yet exactly what kind of learning disability he has, but it doesn’t really matter, I guess. He is getting special instruction, but hates feeling “dumb”, even though he is one of the smartest kids I’ve ever met. He may never enjoy reading, he may never become a decent reader, but I know that when we find the right outlet for him, he will shine like the brightest star in the sky. You’re a great Momma, and so am I, because we adore our babies and care what happens to them. <3

  • Julie

    I am a published writer. I am also dyslexic, too. Don’t spend so much time teaching teachers about his disability. Further, he will learn the pros and con of good and bad teachers. There is something more important for you to teach him-language. Teach him to embrace his own language. Dyslexia offers a gift (and it does). Each person encumbered has a unique language all thier own. How wonderful. He will never be “cookie cutter” and it takes a lifetime of work, a lot of bruises, but his disorder sets him apart and one day he will use it his own advantage.

  • Kathleen

    As a former teacher and principal, I think you should share all of this with the school. I have great compassion for parents of kids with learning challenges because it can be a full time job staying on top of the school. I’ve had lots of conversations with parents like you–mothers and fathers who want the best for their child every day and unfortunately have to fight for it.

    Please consider telling the teacher when you son has struggled meeting deadlines and how many hours he needed to complete his work. We always need to be on the side of the child.

    I send you warmest wishes. You’re doing the best you can for your child!

  • Elise Fixon

    This letter is so spot on. Remediation for dyslexics is costly. Schools aren’t focused on helping dyslexics yet 1 in 5 or 20% are in fact dyslexics (per Sally Shaywitz at Yale).

    How schools can disregard the 20% blows my mind. M
    I’m an advocate for universal kindergarten screening for language based learning difference for ALL. How about just the 5 minute slingerland test. One page.

    But no, let’s allow them to be missed and not addressed until it’s nearly too late, their self esteem is in the toilet and we parents must figure out what in the world is not happening.

    I’m disgusted with public education and broke from eight years in private.

  • Amanda

    I am the mother of a special needs son, who is currently in preschool. Just this morning I had a talk with the teacher about how far behind the other kids he is. I fight for him, I fight myself on debating the best course of action for him (special ed or “normal” class), I fight for services (really? 20 min a week of speech for a non-verbal 4 year old?) I fight for him to learn. I have tears in my eyes reading this post. I needed this – I needed hope that he might come though, that all the fight might pay off in the future, since it’s always the future I’m fighting for. I hear of kids with his disorder being in their 20’s with a 1st grade education, and I dont’ want that for my son. I tell myself I will cross that bridge if I get there, but until then, I read stories of hope. thank you.

  • Mikki

    Please look into the Scottish Rite reading program. They are part of the Mason’s. It is free and I have seen a lot of kids do really well. If they don’t progress as they should sometimes they will even help pay for more services.

  • Linda

    k I am bawling!!

  • Trixie

    Raise your hand if you are a parent of a special needs child and you are wiping a tear away after reading this.
    *raises hand*
    Thank you for writing this. I do hope you send it to his teacher and I hope many other parents send or print this out to give to their children’s teachers because it is precise and exact and it is real.

  • ceciel

    I teach a class called Rethinking Special Education at Denison University in Ohio and I’m using this next semester. Thank you for being an incredible writer and mother and advocate.

  • Thi

    Oh hell, how are you with me on this one too? Thank you for writing this, this is my own struggle written in the most perfect of words.

  • Hayden

    So beautifully written…I am a teacher and this post reminded me of exactly why I do what I do. I have taught all levels…college, honors, remedial, behaviorally challenged, etc. Your observations about the special ed process, the role of social class, and the way that love and support are so essential to the teaching process…I just wish more people (parents and teachers alike) understood this! There is truly no greater feeling than helping a student conquer their fears and begin to build confidence. I love working with parents like you. You are all amazing. And so is this blog by the way. Found it just in time ( going stir crazy waiting for my second baby to show up!)

  • Arnetta

    I am a 6th grade Language Arts teacher. I encourage you to TELL THE TEACHER. If she/he is passionate about education, they will be open and very receptive to your comments. I deal with 130 kids (over 7 periods) and it is hard to stay on top of each and every one of them. But when parents reach out, you make a more conscious effort. I give all of my students 100% of myself but sometimes even with an IEP or 504 plan, you just don’t know each individual case UNTIL the parent communicates it with you. We need that communication so we can work together as a team for your child. 🙂
    I loooooooooooooooooooooooooove your blog. Found it 2 days ago and I am hooked!

  • Maire Smith

    Please tell your son, if you think he’d like to hear it, that hearing about how hard he worked on his writing made me admire him, even though I’ve never met him. Learning to share his thoughts in a difficult format is hard, but his work on it is an amazing thing, and keeping on trying like that is going to make it easier every year he keeps working on it.