Turning Trauma into Triumph
by Punam Saxena
My family settled in rural Georgia in the 1970s during the height of the integration process, where children were being bussed all over the place. Everyone was trying to find their place in the community. And then, in plops this traditional Indian family from India. We were the only ones at the time. There was not a global understanding of the fact India is a country, so we often were asked what tribe we belonged to. After a few years, my parents finally said we were Cherokee, fatigued from explaining.
We were kept at arm’s length to the point where we could not secure housing and were shunned at many restaurants.
School for Me?
You can imagine what life was like. In 2nd grade, my teacher asked me to be tested for the gifted program. School was easy for me, and social situations were complex. As Hindi is my first language, I struggled with spoken words but paper and pencil, totally my wheelhouse.
This was the second time I was taking this test, and I felt pretty darn confident that I would make it this time. My 1st and 2nd-grade teachers thought this program would be a good fit for me as I was a high academic achiever. Unfortunately, the score that came back in 1st grade didn’t meet the arbitrary metric for the program, so I had more confidence going into it the second time. But it was not to be…again as the score didn’t meet the district requirements. I was devastated. My grades dropped, my confidence shattered, and my love of learning was gone.
My parents watched in sadness, not knowing how to help. As immigrants, they were at a loss. They come from a hierarchal society where you don’t question authority, so they didn’t know they had rights, could ask questions, or pursue other avenues. They did not realize they could engage with the school, and no one guided them.
I became a mediocre student with no desire to invest in my education and reluctantly went to college at my parents’ urging. This feeling of worthlessness haunted me for years until I began working and slowly started to see a passion emerge. As a special education teacher, I dreamt of parents coming to the school and sharing their valuable insights regarding their children’s behavior, social circumstances, and any triggers that may impact their learning in schools but rarely saw that type of partnership.
My own Children
When my own four children were starting school, I volunteered in their schools and began advocating for my children by building relationships with teachers, administrators, and even district personnel. Soon, I was sought out for larger, more systemic challenges facing the schools and district. Throughout my children’s educational career, I became a trusted partner in my children’s educational planning, which, in turn, helped every student in our school system.
Skills and Experiences
For the past several years, I have focused on honing those skills and experiences I developed as a partner in my children’s education by writing a book,
When parents hold their newborn for the first time, they rarely know what is in store for their little one’s future. Sure, parents have hopes and dreams, but where do they begin? As children grow, parents face various rewards and challenges of raising citizens of the world. It can be especially overwhelming and daunting once they begin school.
Creating a Podcast, edu-Me;
edu-Me is bridging the gap between parents and schools. We will discuss everything from how to volunteer to what you need to know about your child's high school years to surviving the holidays. Our goal is to empower you to become a well-versed partner in your schools. Each episode will help us work together to educate them better. Join us every other week for an exciting new episode!
My mission is to ensure every child has the chance to reach their fullest potential by empowering parents to become partners in their child’s education.
Get to know Punam
Punam V. Saxena holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Education. Throughout her 30 years of experience between teaching and volunteering in her children’s schools, she implemented several procedures that benefited students and administrators within the school district.
Punam is a Parent Impact Coach, podcast host of Edu-Me, author of Parent Power: Navigate School and Beyond, TEDx Ocala speaker. Her work focuses on bridging the gap and fostering and more robust relationship between parents and schools by empowering parents to become partners in their child’s education.
She has been recognized as Volunteer of the Year at Harrison School for the Arts and has received a Key to the City in Lakeland, Florida. She has been featured in the magazine’s Podcast Movement, Shoutout Atlanta, Global Fluency, and Women Who Podcast. She has also spoken at several mainstage events, including the Passionistas Project’s "I’m Speaking" and Podcast Movement’s Virtual Summit. Additionally, Punam has been featured on NBC’s Atlanta & Company, CBS, ABC, and FOX.
She enjoys running, cooking, reading, and spending time with her family in her spare time.
Link to my website: www.edu-Me.net
Link to my TEDx Ocala Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrY3dM-AvOg