Being a Mom has rewarded me in so many ways, particularly in my understanding of things concerning parent-teacher relationships and student-teacher relationships within in a school system. Disclaimer from the get-go: I realize that one does not have to become a parent so as to teach well and make a difference. I would never want that message to be understood because of anything stated (words or ideas) that is to follow. Good teachers come in all forms and packages. I know this with all my heart.
However, having stayed as a teacher without having had kids myself, I personally (knowing my unique personality and tendencies) would have been ‘less than caring‘ in my interactions with children; I know this about myself. In this way, having children was really the answer for me specifically in enlarging my understanding about care relationships within education. I have a friend without children and she is naturally (from probably birth) an absolute saint. She is so kind and sweet and tender-hearted toward children- something that took me years to even begin to master. I had to have four kids and fourteen years of parenting before I started to ‘get it’. And there are still things I am working on and know I never would have quite ‘gotten’ so well, had I not become a mother.
I absolutely salute anyone who works with children- parents, teachers or otherwise. We have much to learn from one another.
But for me—as a Mom, I am able to understand kids as children- not just as students. Each time I walk into a classroom, hallway, playground or corridor- I am reminded that these children I am interacting with are someone elses’ children. They belong to someone. Someone loves these children and these are treasured beings. They are absolutely beloved- cherished and adored by someone. And I hold this knowledge in the forefront of my mind as much as is possible- because I know how I want each of my four precious four to be treated. Just the way I am dealing with the children in my school: with the knowledge that they are someone’s loved child.
As a Mom, I am also able to understand parents as allies- not as the enemy. I am a mom to four fabulous kids. But I am also a teacher to amazing, fabulous kids. Each and every time I walk into my own four children’s world (whether that be a classroom they are situated in, a basketball court, a piano studio, a recital hall, a baseball diamond or a hockey rink)- I understand that this zone of proximity is not my official turf. I am physically outside my comfortable school-based perimeters. Put me in a school, and I am feeling that I am on the inside circle. But place me inside someone elses’ circle of influence, and I suddenly find myself somewhat outside my comfort zone. This is not a bad thing, but it reminds me how I want to be treated when not on my own turf. That is, with respect, dignity, thoughtfulness, justice and kindness. Outsiders wish these things for themselves because they know what it feels like to be on the borders. In the very same way, put me back in my classroom and I suddenly find myself on the inside again- in a comfortable place of respect and influence. But as I was on the outside at some point in time, it is never lost on me what this feels like. To be outside. I hold it again at the forefront of my mind with the greatest of regard. When a parent comes into my educational world, comes into my classroom and meets me on my turf: it is never lost on me what that feels like to be in their shoes. I don’t want to be viewed as the ‘enemy’ when I am outside my comfort zone. Neither do parents. We are all in this together- parents, teachers and otherwise. We need to see one another as allies and partners in purpose.
For we do better when we see each other for whom we truly are: people. We are People- all of us! People who care (albeit in different ways), people who want the best for their children (albeit again-sometimes in different ways) and people who would be willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary so as to do what needs to be done for the benefit of the child. Parents are our greatest allies and we serve not only them but ourselves best when we strive to preserve and grow these relationships.
As a Mom who is also a teacher, here is something else I have been able to understand. I am able to put the school day in perspective. School is part of life, but it is not all of life. Today, I asked a kindergartener what school was all about. Here’s what he said: ‘playing, eating and some working’. If this isn’t what school really is in kindergarten, then we have a problem Houston.
As a Mom, I have been challenged to act in my classroom as if there were always a parent in the room. Each of my students has a family support system behind them. They all have parents who love them, grandparents who adore them and a family network of aunts and uncles and cousins who are in their life vouching for their best interest. In my classroom, it is never far from my mind that each and every one of my students has a team behind them, working off the record at home and in the community, to support their learning. When I teach my students, interacting with them inside the classroom, I keep at the forefront that someone ‘outside’ loves them. Keeping this principle in my mind has enabled me to consistently act in ways that are loving (besides- if a parent was sitting in my classroom, wouldn’t that be the way I would respond to each child?), act in ways that are fair and just (because again, a parent would insist that this be the standard by which I deal with their child- and so should I), as well as act in ways that are compassionate (because what parent does not want a kind adult dealing with their children?). Added to this would be that I strive to act in ways that are positive and assistive (because every child deserves to learn in the ways they are equipped to learn by best).
Being a mom has grown me, stretched me and enabled me. But being a teacher has also done the same. In both capacities, I am learning that love is the most important foundation on which to build; am also learning that there is always enough love to go around. We always can find more, for each and every one of the students who have been placed in our lives. They are there for a reason. We are in their life for a reason. And much like the saying that emphasizes ‘we don’t often get to choose the children God places in our families’, we also don’t get that privilege as teachers either. You love the ones you’ve been given.
Because just like our own flesh and blood children: our kids at school need consistent caring love from us. And they know when that love is genuine and real. Their responses to us, much like those offered by our own children, are cushioned in the beliefs they have about themselves along with the beliefs they think WE have about them too.
So may all our beliefs as teachers be those that choose to support and uplift- just as an effective mom (or dad) would cherish the God-given brood they were given, so must teachers care for the ones they’ve been given as students too.