The first email that I sent the principal to advocate for my son included a description of my concerns and then a statement about how I am not placing blame with the teacher at all, but that there must be something else up, because this is what I am seeing.
Anything before that moment never involved the principal and always involved conversations with the teacher, making myself very clear that I loved them to bits.
Fast forward many years and I have filed so many complaints with external organizations I need to keep a flow chart to remember everything and when anyone goes past their legislated due date, I follow up with another complaint. I kid you not, I have a timeline and a flow chart! 6 TRB complaints, 3 Ombudsperson complaints, 4 OIPC complaints, 8 FOI requests, 1 Human Rights complaint, and so many emails to the Ministry of Education and mini due dates for each individual complaint filed I would need to look through all my papers and count to give you a final number. I am even filing complaints on the very organizations I am filing complaints with.
My first round of complaints and I broke out into stress hives. I had them around my back and chest all around my heart. I felt horrible. The first time I walked into the elementary school and the principal looked at me like she wanted to rip my heart out, I felt my stomach drop. When I saw a staff member at a board meeting that I reported senior admin to, I almost tripped over my feet walking through the door and then secretly hoped for an earthquake to commence to break up the meeting.
I had to give myself permission to be blunt with people. To communicate in a way that was not motherly or nurturing. To be professional and collect evidence and think strategically. To risk people feeling uncomfortable around me, and have people not like me. I had to risk people talking about me in ways, that I will never know.
It is a very uncomfortable feeling. I am not an aggressive person. At the same time…. when you feel cornered and under attack, you never really know yourself until you are pushed to your limits. I have to say…they created me. They have put me through a very effective training program. I have been whittled down by their games into a fine advocacy tool. I am now, thankful for that. I now can say, I am assertive, honest, and effective. Before any difficult meeting, I take a deep breath and think to myself…”I say this with love”, and I get to the point.
We need to give ourselves permission to advocate.
To stand firm in our opinions.
To voice our thoughts and feelings.
To not be “nice”.
To be effective, and not let them manipulate themselves out of the situation.
To hold people accountable.
To be bold.
To take risks.
To try again.
To be vulnerable.
To speak our truth and stick to it.
All of the advocates who have come before me have given themselves permission to be and do all of these things. I gift this to myself and I want to gift it to all of you.
We can step out of the socially expected roles of how a “nice mother” behaves. We can be compassionate and caring people and we can also speak our truth and not allow people to walk all over us.
We can be strong.
But toxic kindness, can go fuck itself.