[VIDEO] I’m Climbing Out of the Pit of Mommy Guilt After Our Son’s Crappy 3rd Grade Experience

I’m sorry that I kept this latest phase of our parenting journey off of the talk show for so long. I had to do a lot of processing and investigating before I could find my words.

First, let me say that our bright handsome son is doing well – given what he experienced in third grade in a public school. I can’t believe how much he’s grown since he learned to walk, first got his glasses before he turned two and is now about to enter a magnet school thanks to his test scores.

Look at this cheeks and ever-present smile. A.J. is truly a blessing to us. I’m not saying that because he’s cute and bright. We have raised him to have high ethical standards for everyone around him. He challenges me and my husband every day with his questions and moral dilemmas. For eight years, I feel like we were able to shield him for much of the world’s craziness – until he reached third grade.

Collage of A.J.

I  created the video below (warning, it’s 10 minutes long) to explain what happened, many of the roadblocks we experienced and what’s next for our son’s education.

Almost every day of the school year, I thought about blogging about what happened,  but I was already wracked with guilt and felt like a failure as a parent.

I worried – constantly.

I worried my viewers would judge me and say “I’d pull my child right out of that school!” Believe me. I wanted to. I lost a lot of sleep over this.

I worried you’d judge me for not having private school tuition in my back pocket.

I worried our son would lose interest in school and become a part of the school to prison pipeline for Black boys.

I worried that I would never stop feeling this way.

I worried that A.J. would feel like me and my husband failed him.

Honestly, I’m still not guilt-free. The inner critic who lives inside my head is hard to turn off. I can think of a dozen different do-overs I’d like for the past third-grade year.

But thanks to my circle of friends, they encouraged me to share what happened and do my best to move past it.

I need to say these exact words so that it’s crystal clear what happened: our son was bullied, repeatedly by his 3rd-grade teacher.

Once she realized that A.J. was not going to tolerate her lack of professionalism, things declined from there. Every effort we made to get him away from her brought some kind of stumbling block. Even when I reached out and went above the principal’s head, the administration suggested that we move our son to a different classroom –  which was of no use since this teacher was the only one teaching her subject in his grade.

It angered me that every alternative was focused on moving our son – NOT correcting this teacher’s behavior.

If our Black son had been treating one of his classmates the way the teacher treated him – he could have faced serious school punishment.

Our sweet boy had more sense than a lot of the administrators I spoke with – because he was not just concerned about himself –  he was concerned about the language this teacher used with his classmates too. Our now 9-year-old was had more empathy in his 59-pound body than full-grown adults.

Here’s the video explaining what happened.

I have a few corrections about what I said at the end of this video.  I do have some suggestions if you experience a teacher whose unprofessionalism is affecting your child or children you know:


Take your concerns beyond your school principal.

Consult with your school counselor as a resource.

Find another teacher who can be a “safe space” for your child in their school building.

For counseling and therapy, use your employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

About Joyce Brewer

Creator & Host of Mommy Talk Show. Emmy award-winning TV journalist.Wife & Mommy; Mom Blogger; Social Media Coach; Long Island, New York transplant living in Atlanta, GA. Follow Joyce on Twitter @MommyTalkShow Author of Use What You Know: A Business Idea Guide for Moms featuring interviews with mompreneurs who created businesses using their skills & backgrounds.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this story. So sorry that your family had this terrible experience, and I appreciate that you are telling the truth–sometimes no matter what you do, you can’t fix the situation. But there is power in a child knowing that his parents have his back no matter what. That knowledge covers a multitude of woes. Here’s hoping to a great 2019 school year for AJ.

    • Thanks, Angela. You know that raising this boy is my full-time job. Everything else comes second. I pray he remembers how I advocated for him and stood by him.

  2. Sorry, you and your family are going through this bull*&^%! In PA we have teacher’s unions, too. So bad teachers have the hand up. Once they have tenor, they are pretty much cemented in unless they break the law. I’ve battled my way up to the school board before with a principal that was subpar and made good teachers lives miserable while overlooking the ones doing their best to ruin my child’s year. Our concerns were never taken seriously and guess what? A few years later that same principal lost her job because she ended up in jail for embezzling from her local volunteer ambulance association. KARMA! Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing so others can learn and advocate. Praying for a fabulous 4th grade for all!

  3. Joyce, you did EVERYTHING you were supposed to do to support your son. Don’t you EVER feel guilty or worry about what other people think. Your son loves you so much and would never ever think that either of you has failed him. You give him exactly what he needs when he needs it.

  4. Hi Joyce,
    I felt your pain immediately as my son also experienced some extremely negative behaviors by multiple teachers in one of Georgia’s finest school districts during this past school year. Like your son, my son is also a high achiever. After a very serious incident that occurred off school property, I wrote a very strong email to the principal and administrators. The push-back was immediate and ugly. After a yearlong fight with the administration and school board, the emotional toll it took on my son was too much. We have since moved out of state and look forward to a peaceful high school experience as a result of everything that transpired. I noticed that you steered clear of the “r” word (I’m not sure if that was deliberate), but in my son’s case that was a huge factor in my son’s experiences this past school year. Thank you for sharing and continue to fight for your sweet AJ.

  5. Oh, Joyce…we should get together sometime and let me tell you about my son’s first-grade experience. He wasn’t singled out, but I witnessed her doing that to other kids and she was so emotionally unstable and unprofessional in the classroom. I have no idea why this young woman chose to teach because she was clearly not enjoying any aspect of her job. I encountered the same issues with admin when I tried to get anything done for these kids. You are right: crappy teachers are protected. My son has an Asperger’s diagnosis from a psychologist–he is extremely intelligent but has sensory and anxiety issues. They would not give him an IEP because they said they only had resources for kids with severe problems. So he was bored, unchallenged and got absolutely no help in the areas he needed. He had good teachers at the same school in K5 and 2nd grade, but we decided to homeschool for 3rd anyway because I was just done with public school after they refused him an IEP again. (Don’t even get me started with my oldest son’s experience at public high school.) We’re homeschooling again this year for 4th grade. I hope AJ’s year is better and that he has excellent teachers to make up for last year! Oh, and please don’t feel guilty. You did what you could against a system that is often not parent- or student-friendly.

  6. Wow, I’m sorry that you and your son had to go through all of this. When we think of bullying, we think of other students not teachers. Doesn’t seem fair that bad teachers can be over looked this way.

  7. It’s so crazy how the caliber of teachers have changed over the years. I remember when I was in school, teachers became teachers because they loved kids, that’s not always the case nowadays. There are still some good teachers out there though. One of them being my mom! 🙂 I’m so sorry you all had to go through this.

  8. I am sorry this happened to your son. I can only imagine how challenging it must have been. Thankfully you listened to your soon and worked to protect him.

  9. Wow, just wow. Thanks for your honesty and opening up about this all. It’s so much to hold onto and is next level mommy guilt. May Grade 4 be a far better experience!

  10. Always a pleasure reading your blog ?

  11. OH Joyce this breaks my heart that your son got bullied by his own teacher. So disgusting maybe the news should of gotten involved or even a lawyer it may not be too late! Sending good energy to your son and definitely better schooling for him!