I have written a lot about teaching and what’s important, but I would be remiss to not emphasize the reason I feel so strongly about creating a caring ethic within the classroom and school. And for me, that reason is very personal. And I certainly do not apply this reason as a blanket explanation for everyone in my situation, because it might not be true of everyone in similar circumstances to me. Nor would it preclude other people who are not like me. What I really want to say is this: I am a better teacher because I am a parent. Which really means that for me personally, it took becoming a parent to realize what it means to care deeply for children and their innate abilities as human beings. It took becoming a parent to learn how to really love. And it took becoming a parent to learn the depth of empathy and compassion and love.
I am not this type of person naturally. Some people are. It would not take becoming a parent for them to learn how to care. I am in absolute awe of these people. And I do not say that with any tone other than that of respect and wonder. For people who are naturally in possession of understanding as it concerns children and creating an ethic of caring, I would give you my absolute admiration. I wish I was like that. But I know who I am. And I am a work in progress.
When I became a mother, I became one reluctantly. Sure, I fell in love immediately. Sure I was for all appearances a great mother. But being a mother took a great deal of effort on my part. I was not naturally nurturing. Not naturally patient. Not naturally empathic. I was very self-centered in a lot of ways. Becoming a mother took the focus off me and placed it on the ‘others’ in my life. It made me broaden my horizons. Made me learn to care about people in ways I was unused to doing so. And I believe it made me a better person. Because it required so much of me, I had to transform in certain ways. And when transformation is a positive experience, as it was in my case, there is much to be gained. Much to learn. And much room for growth.
Similarly, when I became a teacher, I became one reluctantly. I was on the track towards getting my double honors degree in Political Science and Journalism. I was going to be a foreign correspondent. I didn’t actually aspire to be a teacher. I probably would have picked any other career than this one had I been given a choice. My life path led me, however, to meet a boy. And that boy lived on a small Island where there was a small university. And that university offered neither of those areas to major in. So, after much deliberation and counselling by my future husband, I instead chose to take a different path and become a teacher. With a specialty in history (not my first love) and a minor in Political Studies.
Life is so interesting. Because when we are in the moments we are in, we wonder why life is unfolding as it is. I certainly asked those questions of myself. I was driven and focused- not patient and long-suffering. I wasn’t the best pick for teacher material. But somehow, I enrolled in the small program offered in my province and I found out very quickly that while teaching might not have been my first love, I could come to love it deeply as I grew into myself.
The ‘self’ I grew into was a different person than the one I had been before. And while I hate to say ‘better’ I will say I developed some character traits along the way that helped me grow as an individual, teacher and then mother.
1.) I became more empathic. As I realized that teaching was less about subjects of expertise and more about people, I found it appealed to me more as a career choice. And in time, because of the people I interacted with and was involved with- I eventually saw teaching as less than a career and more of a calling. It became for me a higher calling- a sacred thing. For I saw that I was accountable for the ways in which I interacted with the human beings in my care (all of them, from staff, to students to parents to general public and personnel): I saw them as people. And I began to care more and more deeply about the ways in which I interacted with people. I began to care about the students and their overall experience. I began to care about teachers as people. I began to care about parents (especially after becoming one) because I saw how much their children were their absolute treasures here on earth. How much my own children were mine. And I began to consider how much trust I placed in teachers myself- and how much trust parents entrusted me with looking after these treasures. And in the process, I became more empathic as a teacher. As a mother. As a friend. As a wife. As a person.
2.) I became more loving. Love is so many things, which I have written about a great deal lately. But truly, loving my children is the most unselfish thing I have ever had to do. And loving children in general has been a possibility for me because of my own journey in motherhood. For being a mother taught me what love entails. What it is. And since I now know that love is something we never run short of- there is always enough: I am able to offer it to all of my ‘children’- both those who were given to me as a gift from God and those entrusted in my care as a responsibility within my calling. I can love because I now know how- freely, lavishly, honestly. Does this mean I have to give everything to everyone in the same manner? Equal does not always mean the same. What I give my own four children is not equal to what I give my students. Nor should it be. There is a balance that must be struck between our private and public lives. But at the same time, there is fluidity in how I care. And love can still be love even if it is different.
3.) I became more understanding. Becoming a mother has helped me understand people in ways I never would have considered before motherhood. For instance, I have a whole new appreciation for difference after having giving birth to four distinct human beings. Each one is unique. Each one is special and extraordinary by virtue of their individuality as a human being. So are all children. I really never gave much thought to this fundamental truth, though, before having children. It was only after having children that I realized how WONDER-ful children are as people- and how great care must be given to understanding them- as with all human beings.
I tell you all this not to make a point about being a teacher and how it has influenced my mothering for the better. I tell you this rather so as to show that I can be both a great teacher and mother because both have made me who I am today. Both have contributed to the person I am now.
Sometimes we think that we can only be one thing really well. Or do one thing really well. I remember becoming a mother for the first time and saying to my own mother that I would never have time to do anything else that required time again. Because I could quite tell- I WAS NEVER GOING TO HAVE ANY TIME TO MYSELF AGAIN. EVER. That statement has obviously been recanted because look at me now- I have more than enough time to whittle away precious hours checking out my friends’ Facebook statuses. I also believed I wouldn’t ever have enough love for more than one child. Now I have four. And that’s not counting my school kids. I have love to multiply- and it just keeps coming.
The thing is: all of our experiences in life contribute and enhance the person we are. Whether that be motherhood/parenthood (as in my case), volunteer work, care for an elderly parent, or any other type of experience that involves one directly with people: it all makes us grow. Because people are food for the soul- both those we love as well as the ones we aren’t so fond of. They grow us as people- from the inside out. And that is why when people ask how can we find balance, I like to think that when it comes to love, there is no need for balance. When it comes to care, no need for balance there either. Nor with empathy or understanding. Because when it comes to these essentials in life, all we need is a cup overflowing.
There just is too much love, care, understanding, empathy or compassion in the world to give to balance the scales. So rather than try to find the elusive balance, I think the key is this. Tip the scales. Tip the scales on love. Tip the scales on empathy. On hope. On grace. Compassion. On all those qualities that make us grow and develop as people.
For in doing so, we discover this: that when we give, we always have enough.