Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Memoir of a Black Female Social Worker: Re-Collections on Black Women Parenting and Parental Involvement in the Education of Black Children

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Memoir of a Black Female Social Worker: Re-Collections on Black Women Parenting and Parental Involvement in the Education of Black Children

Article excerpt

Embracing the Shift

From In Loco Parentis to Othermothering

WHEN I THINK of the word shift it elicits a strong sense of profound change. Throughout my practice as a school social worker, I began to eventually understand the power that a shift can have within the school walls, between the students and school staff, and among parents and the communities where they live. A shift in discipline policies and procedures can have a dramatic effect on how students' inappropriate behaviors are dealt with in schools. A shift in curricular goals could impact upon the teaching and learning process. A shift in a school system's ability to maintain accreditation can create anxiety about inferior schooling and depreciated property value among the residents and business leaders in the community.

As I reflect on the influence shifts have on schooling, I re-collect a profound shift that I experienced.1 It was August and my child was failing 9th grade biology. Okay...he wasn't actually failing. He had a "C" average, but in our home, anything less than an 80 is failing. After going online and reviewing his grades, I discovered three zero's in the place where grades should be marked for homework and class work.

"Charlie, where is your binder for biology?"


"Just give me the binder."


As he hands it to me I can already see papers hanging out of the contraption, and scrawled doodling marks with some girl's handwriting adorning the thing. Then I open it. Um, um, um. I've seen better organization from a Kindergartner.

"This thing's a mess. How in the world can you find anything?" He says something to me, but I can't focus on his chatter.

After organizing my son's binder I find a few graded quizzes- graded in the low 70's- which have comments from the teacher that are confusing, and daily warm-ups (some of which have the teacher's initials, some that do not).

"Charlie, these grades are pitiful. Looks like you've been doing absolutely nothing in this class!" (His eyes get big and he looks around the room - as if someone can help him- the deer caught in headlights look. He starts to speak).

"But mom..."

"SHUT UP... I'm still talking! This is pathetic. I can't believe you're beginning your first year of high school this way. You need to tell me what you plan on doing to get yourself out of this mess?"

"Mom, it's not me, she gave us a quiz on a chapter we haven't even covered yet and when I look up from my paper, she always tells me to get back to work."

"Okay, that's two incidents; tell me what else has you struggling in that class."

"I'm not struggling."

"You're not struggling... you're kidding me right? Look at that computer and tell me what you see!"(I need him to remove himself- away from me- before I do something rash. I'm not a violent person, but I find myself wanting to hit him. I just fold my arms across my chest to contain myself). He sits in the chair and scrolls down the litany of work and grades posted and says,

"Mom, my grades are not that bad." Counting to ten before I speak through my teeth, "So you believe that having a 'C' average is okay?"

"It could be worse. I know kids in my class that are failing. At least I have a 'C'"

"At least you have a 'C'? Boy you must of fell and bumped your head. Have you forgotten the many conversations we've had about what you need to do to get into college... cause a 'C' ain't gonna cut it?"

"Okay, okay mom... jeez."

"Alrighty then, you betta straighten up and fly right." Holding up the quizzes I found in his binder I ask, "Now tell me, what do these comments on your quizzes mean?"

"I dunno know. I can't read Ms. Johnson's handwriting."

"What about these warm-up assignments? Why are some of them initialed and others are not?"

"I dunno know. She just looks at them and initials them sometimes".

"Did you ask your teacher about these assignments? …

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