Trusting HER Instincts: What Moms Will and Won’t Do For Their Kids

By Guest Blogger Holly Pavliscsak

As a working mother, negotiating the school scene is a tricky proposition. There is the mom at every school, yah, you know HER, she’s the mom that’s always there like it’s her full time job to be there. Every year, I watch HER kids get the “prime” teacher.   You know the teacher I’m talking about… the nice teacher, the engaged teacher, the one that the kids and parents just all love.  That “prime” teacher also gets the “prime” students of course!  This teacher’s classroom seems to have few discipline problems and everyone generally gets along, kids learn, test scores soar and all is right with the world!

Trusting HER Instincts: What Moms Will and Won't Do For Their Kids

My stay-at-home mom friends diligently go up to the school and volunteer regularly.  The school administrators know them and they are well liked by the teachers.  They are in every sense involved and that is great for them.  For their commitment and free work, they are often rewarded by getting the “prime” teacher in the grade level for their children’s teacher.

On the flip side, the parents that aren’t as involved often get the “subprime” or less ranked teachers in the grade or *gasp* the worst teacher in the grade.  You know the one I’m referring to also, she gets all the discipline problems, she yells, she punishes all the students for the inappropriate actions of a select few, test scores plummet, no one is happy.

Last year, even though I’m involved as much as I can be as a working parent, my son got the so-called “worst” teacher in the grade.  I had my stay-at-home my friends tell me that fact and that I might want to consider requesting a teacher transfer.  I resisted their advice thinking that she couldn’t be THAT bad and that my son will have to deal with difficult people in his life and we’d get through it together.   I didn’t want to be HER, a helicopter parent, hovering around never letting my children experience real life and its messiness.

Well, I was wrong; it was a horrible year for him.  I didn’t really understand how bad until the last week of school when he said “guess what today is Mom?” in an exacerbated, exhausted voice. I looked at him and he said ”only two more days until I don’t have to hear Ms. M scream anymore!”  At that moment I felt like the worst Mom in the world!  When his test scores came in after school concluded for the year, he’d gone down in every subject!

Trusting HER Instincts: What Moms Will and Won't Do For Their Kids

This year, I scouted out the teachers; I listened to HER, my running partner and my neighbor (both stay-at-home Moms) and found out the scoop. I learned just who would be a good fit for my child. The first day of school came and we found out that his teacher, to my dismay, was the teacher I’d identified as the “worst” teacher for my kid.  I spoke to both my allies and they confirmed it as well, and said, “March right in there and request a change this moment! Do you want another year like your son had last year?!”  So I trusted my friends’ instincts, HER instincts, and I did just that. I walked into the front office like I owned the place or at least lived there, and wrote down exactly what I wanted.  I told the administration that I wanted my child in a different classroom; his current teacher wasn’t the right fit for him and asked that they please call me.

They moved him to another classroom without question. While she wasn’t the “prime” teacher, she was the right fit for him!  She was engaging, cooperative, knew how to manage discipline and used positive reinforcement.

When he walked in the door the after first day of school and said “It’s going to be a fantastic year Mom, I love my new teacher!” I knew that listening to my friends’ instincts was the right decision!  As working Mothers we can’t be everywhere all the time, I know we try, but we must rely on our army of women to get through life!  We need them and our kids do too!  So the next time you question how to handle something at your child’s school, trust “HER” instincts and be vocal about what you want and need…

Trusting HER Instincts: What Moms Will and Won't Do For Their Kids


Ladies, what do you think about Holly’s approach? What WOULD and WOULDN’T you do for your child? Do you let the school handle all matters pertaining to your child or do you usually get involved? How far would you go as a mom to “get what you want” or “make things right for your child?” Does it make you a helicopter parent for speaking up, “meddling in” but getting your child placed in the “right” class, with the “right” teacher? Can you share with our community any stories or experiences you have in this domain.



Holly Pavliscsak is raising two kids ages 10 and 7 all while juggling the pressures of a demanding full time career and travel schedule.  Professionally, she is a Project Manager for the Department of Defense leading.  She’s presented and published numerous pieces in the areas of telehealth, mobile health and healthcare management.  She also hosts a caring bridge site where she chronicles her Mother’s battle with colon cancer


  1. This is very tricky. I cringe when I see the helicopter parents who hover over stupid things and don’t let they children breathe. But when it comes to the school year and my child getting the right teachers, I absolutely would meddle in. This is a great post and I think that you made the right decision Holly.

  2. I let the school make those kind of decisions. It’s a tough world out there and your children aren’t always going to get everything they want. Better for them to have the experience of coping with difficult children and less than good teachers. It will make them stronger when they encounter other hardships.

  3. I have always said that in life, you can’t choose much of what you get as an adult, so get used to it as a child. However, we have had some really good child/teacher situations.

    I trust that those teachers that are with my children day in & day out will be my child’s advocate when classroom placements are being made for the following year. If you have a good idea of the teachers in the next grade for your child, then have a frank discussion at the end of the year with the current teacher. This is the tactic I took for my now-first grader at the end of last year.

    While I think that there are WAY too many politics involved within the school when it comes to volunteering Moms and PTAs, I think classroom placement isn’t one of them, at least within my school district. Teachers have told me this… and I also could be naive.

    Anne @ the white words

  4. Thanks Tracy! AnneWhiteDoes and ToughMommy, I actually agreed with you both until this year. Unfortunately, at my school there is no database that spits kids randomly into classrooms, the teachers and administration literally sit around a table and choose. He’s a quiet, obedient kid that just slipped off their radar, in their opinion he would work well in any classroom. I saw my kid that was excited and always ready for anything life threw at him pull back and loose some of that confidence that I loved about him. His self-esteem and grades were suffering; it was time for a Mommy reaction! Thanks for reading the post!

  5. Holly, this is a great post! I do have to play devil’s advocate to some degree though. I was considered to be the “worst” teacher for my first three years of teaching. I was one of three teachers on the grade level. The other two had been teaching at this school for ten plus years. One was considered much better than the other, and I was considered to be the bottom of the barrel. At the school I was at the circumstances were the same as the school your kids are at. It wasn’t nearly as obvious though. Basically any parent could request a teacher change and the most “involved” parents always got the teacher they wanted right off the bat. I spent three fairly miserable years trying very hard to understand my predicament. I got the most difficult kids and had the least experience. I was given almost no support and then people wondered why I was struggling. I saw the student/teacher assignments as a massive popularity contest. I always felt if parents took a moment to come into my classroom and see what was going on they may feel differently about me. I had a student that reminded me a great deal of Ben and his mom absolutely hated the fact that I was his teacher from day one. I never stood a chance. I will be the first to admit that he wasn’t given everything he needed. It was my first year teaching with a class full of the most difficult children in the grade at extremely different levels of learning. However, the reason I was able to do as much as I did was because of the parents who did support me and stand up for me. Had there been more I can only assume it would have been much better for everyone involved. The fault isn’t with the parents though. The system of assigning students to classrooms in that way is beyond ridiculous and unfair to everyone involved. I have seriously considered never going back to teaching because of the experience I had. Now that I have two kids of my own I struggle with the thought of what I would do in your shoes. Would I take a great deal of time nurturing and supporting the “bad teacher” because I was once her? Would I let my kids see that you don’t always have the perfect situation like your other commenters shared? Or would I fight for the “best teacher” because I want the absolute best for my child? I am totally on the fence! It’s a good thing I have a few years to figure it out. Sorry this is so long but I just wanted to show another side.

    1. Jana I can’t imagine in my wildest imagination you have anything in common with these teachers that I’m referencing in this piece. The class he was moved to has the brand new teacher but her approach is not to humiliate the kids into compliance, which is the case for the teacher he had and the 1st one he got this year. Strict and high demanding teachers are great using degradation as your compliance mechanism is something I can not tolerate. Often times the attacks were not focused at my son but he still took it in as if it was toward him. He said something remarkable when he came home this week, my new teacher has an agenda so I know what we are going to do each day. I hate that you were given the most challenging classes that’s certainly not fair to a new teacher. I hope one day after your babies go back you give it another go.

  6. As a 21-year veteran of classroom teaching and the mother of two boys, I totally get where you are coming from – but I think talking with other parents about which teacher to request may not be the best approach.

    I have twin boys and they have TOTALLY different needs! One of them does best with a very loose, creative teacher who will allow him to take off on his own. He’s highly gifted and very self-motivated and would never, ever disrupt class in any way. His brother, on the other hand, needs a very strict hand to keep him in line.

    We’ve been fortunate that they’ve had appropriate teachers (for the years they were in school – we homeschooled many grades). I’m not sure that talking with other parents would have helped us get them in the classes that were appropriate for them – the teachers and administrators knew who needed what and placed the boys accordingly.

    As a long-term teacher, I know we try really, really hard to match kids with teachers. I’ve spent countless hours trying to get kids in with a teacher I think would match their needs the best.

  7. What to do and not do for your children is a hard fence to walk! Sometimes I want them to do the work themselves, such as when they forget their homework and have to do it late for a penalty, knowing that they need the experience, and other times I want to walk in and demand fairness and justice on their behalf, such as in the case of bullying in the classroom or on the school bus. I am a stay-at-home mom too, who has done time being committee chairs as well as PTA president. I did try to keep a respectful distance from the teachers and administration, though, and respect them doing their jobs. My family is full of teachers, so I always try to let the teachers know that I respect their hard work, and am willing to pull my weight in getting my children to do what is expected of them in class and in behavior.

    We’ve had a few ups and downs with teachers, but none were truly “bad.” Some were just not a good fit, especially with my son, and so I became a little more involved in those relationships, since my son was the child struggling more with the responsibilities in the classroom. But I did occasionally have to step in and establish a stronger presence with the teacher and administration, and I think, because I didn’t do that often, that when I did bring up my concerns, they were taken more seriously than if I had been a “helicopter parent.” And now that I am more experienced as a parent with the school system, if I thought that a teacher was unqualified, unprofessional, or going to be a problem, I would step in and discuss that with the administration, with no hesitation. And I do go to the open houses and size up the teachers, especially now that my daughter is leaving the same elementary school and moving up to to the middle school where I know very few of the teachers. If I feel uncomfortable with the teachers when I meet them, I’ll be hesitant to let them have my kids!

    1. I understand your point my parents were both Elementary School teachers for over 30 years each. I’ve just learned the hard way if I don’t advocate for my children chances are no one will. Listening to my son finally open up after he felt safe in this new class about how horrible last year was for him is all the proof I need that I made the right decision for him.

  8. You have to advocate for your child when they are at an impressionable age not to advocate for themselves. I think what Holly did was the perfect thing for her child as a mother. And she even proved this to herself by seeing the difference in both years.

  9. I think I would make the effort to help my child get a good teacher for the year, it makes all the difference in the world. She is 2 years away from going to school…but I have a very clear memory of what happened to me in public elementary school. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, too, but she was not assertive and afraid of the school politics with the other moms. She trusted others to make the choice of which class I should be placed into…and I had nightmares for years. My 1st grade teacher (my first teacher ever!) humiliated me…she told me in the first week that since I was not able to read the letters on the blackboard I would sit for 1 hour every day, alone, while the other kids were allowed to play with toys in the back of the room. I was the only student sitting for an hour every day of the school year, while the other kids played and laughed at me and called me stupid. The NYC teacher also told me there was something wrong with me since I was left-handed and that I had to force myself to try to write with my right hand. My mother took this recommendation seriously and punished me at home whenever I picked up a pencil with my left hand…because she respected teachers so much. Teachers are just strangers, you know? They passed a bunch of courses, just like you did in college. Some you can trust, others you can’t. They don’t necessarily know more than you do about taking care of kids and not damaging them psychologically. We had just come to the United States…I didn’t know how to speak English, though I could understand enough of it. So, I entered school not knowing letters, numbers, shapes or colors. Some might say that experience strengthened me later, that kids should be exposed to tough situations..and my mom was unable to ever help me with homework, projects or reports (think about how many times you all helped your kids for school)…I did ALL of that myself, my whole childhood. I worked so hard…to avoid the humiliation…that I had the top test schools in my school by 6th grade graduation and earned nothing but honors and full scholarships afterwards. But that humiliation also stays with me, because it was at such a tender age…it hurt my self-esteem greatly. I taught my daughter already how to read numbers up to 20, count up to 50… and read all the alphabet letters, lowercase and uppercase and she is writing some of them already, easily. She is more advanced than I was when I entered school and she has 2 years to go. I don’t want her ever going through what I went through…she is too precious to me. I don’t care if it hurts a teacher’s feelings, I will have her moved to another class, if necessary, to protect her confidence and self-esteem. She can’t advocate for herself for a long time and I want her enjoying the learning process, just as she does now, whenever she comes up to me with a book and asks me to teach her how to read and is so happy to learn. I went through a lot of horrible things at that Manhattan public elementary school and I didn’t tell my mom half of it…remember that, kids at a young age think it’s all “normal”..they don’t know what’s not right in terms of adult behavior unless you ask questions. Because I became an honors student…middle school and high school and college were a breeze…I always was assigned the best teachers. It made all the difference in the world.

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