This auto narrative study examined the phenomenon of a mother’s experience with the Kindergarten to Grade 12 school system. The narrative consisted of forty-eight vignettes in which the author recalled when she interacted with educators in her three children’s schools between 1985 and 2004. It took place in four Canadian provincial jurisdictions (Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, and British Columbia) and in six elementary schools, two junior secondary schools, and five secondary schools. Some schools were public schools and some were Catholic or Separate schools. One of the children was diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder. Two of the children were assigned Individualized Education Plans. The narrative was analyzed utilizing hermeneutic phenomenology as outlined by Max van Manen in Researching Lived Experience (1990). The analysis yielded seven themes: communications, cultural dissonance, expectations, otherness, professionalism, rage, and silencing. The study revealed that communications between school and the mother centred on events and behaviours that were problematic for the school. Cultural dissonance arose because of the differences between the family and the regional cultures in which they lived. In addition, the family adjusted its own culture because of the presence of an Attention Deficit Disorder child. The mother’s expectation of her experience of her children’s schools began as hope which was replaced by despair. The mother began to see herself as ‘other’ and to a certain extent ‘otherness’ was present in the children. Teachers defined themselves as professionals and were unwilling to value the information that could have been provided by the mother. Because of the actions of the schools in excluding him and in extending his sense of otherness, one of the children developed a deeply held sense of rage. The mother was actively silenced by schools but also passively silenced herself. The central focus for this study was to identify the experience that one mother had of her children’s schooling. The significance of the study lies in the richness of the findings and their thematic interpretations. These provide reflective opportunities for other parents facing similar challenges and a chance for teachers and school administrators to engage in the life of a mother.
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Thesis advisor: Schmidt, Michele
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