Ihad parents who did not encourage my education. In elementary school, I don’t recall one instance of either of my parents reading with me, sitting down to look over math problems, or
helping me hone a craft project. In middle school
and high school, my parents often discouraged
me from doing homework (“That’s what school is
for!”). Some of my friends and I routinely forged our
parents’ signatures on our report cards—my friends
because they didn’t want their parents to see their
less-than-stellar grades, and I because I didn’t want
to broach the subject of education if I could avoid
it, regardless of how many smiley faces, plus marks,
and As I received.
Before you draw any conclusions, please note that,
in many ways, my parents were very good parents.
They loved my siblings and me, and they provided
us with regular signs of affection and comforting
companionship. They taught us to work hard, to be
respectful of others, and to be kind.
But with the daily scramble of trying to make ends
meet, school simply did not surface as a priority.
Survival was a family affair, and when there was a
job to be had or money to be made, that singular
objective was king. Routine activities included foraging through dumpsters for food (mostly produce,
which we turned into preserves for later use);
stealing medicine and toiletries (and other items
that were not covered by food stamps); and skipping
school to pick crops, hunt, or tend to family needs.
There was little energy left for such things as
schoolwork. But we were still loved.
Advocates of higher education may find it hard
to fathom that parents could be so unsupportive of
schooling. And as a child, I, too, bought into the
story that “good parents” always supported their
children’s education. Walking the tightrope between
my teachers’ assumptions, my desire to protect my
family’s image, and my private aspirations to go to
college was both nerve-wracking and isolating.
At a young age, I learned the craft of dodging
my teachers’ questions associated with homework
habits and parental supports. Each time I even
hinted at my home situation to a teacher, I was
informed that I must somehow be mistaken—that
By buying into the myth that “all parents encourage
their children to succeed in school,” we may be
harming some of our most vulnerable students.