Being a Childless Teacher…What I Didn’t Know Then


Well, we are in week 3 of the new school year over here, and while we’ve had more than a few tears, things seem to be settling down a bit. Being the mother of kids in school is making me think back a lot on my time as a teacher of kids in school, and I’m realizing there are dimensions of teaching that I didn’t totally understand as a childless teacher. Now, don’t get me wrong– I am absolutely not saying teachers aren’t as good at their jobs if they aren’t also parents, but I am saying I feel different about the job now that I’ve seen it from both sides.

For one, being a parent has made me see how incredibly important teachers are to parents. I always felt like teaching was an important job, but now I don’t see teachers as just “teachers”, I see them as the people with whom I am entrusting the five year old child that I’ve worried about, taught, scolded, praised, hugged, dressed, fed, etc. for five long years. I am 31 years old, so that means I’ve made this particular child the main focus and priority of my life for 1/6 of my years on this earth, roughly. Now I’ve turned him over to a person I hardly know, along with 18 other kids, for half his waking hours. GULP! We are happy to say we have hit the teacher lotto over here, both in pre-k and kindergarten, but wow. It’s a scary thing to do!

On a related note, good school-home communication is like gold. My son’s kindergarten teacher is fantastic at facilitating communication between school and home. Each child has a folder in his or her back pack where the teacher puts daily notes and student work. If we want to send a note into school, we simply put it in the folder. She and her teaching aide check each child’s backpack every morning for notes from home, and we check it each night. Coming from a parent-run co-operative nursery school, where parents serve co-op hours in the classroom and know everything that’s going on at all times, I was thrilled my son got a teacher who is such a great communicator because it’s a strange feeling to have no idea what is going on with your child all day.

When it comes to home life, things aren’t always what they seem. I thought I knew what parenting was like because I previously was a teacher. I already spent my day surrounded by kids; it’s the same, right? Nope. My kid has worn the same three superhero shirts, alternating them, for weeks now. Previously, I would have probably wondered why that preschooler only owns three shirts. Now, I’d know it’s very likely that preschool will only wear those shirts. My older son eats a cheese sandwich every single day for lunch. Pre-kids teacher me would have wondered why that mom is so uncreative and wondered why his lunch is the same every day. Has she not heard of Pinterest? Bento boxes? Post-kids me knows that sometimes, there are bigger battles to fight, and if a boring cheese sandwich is a cost of reaching some larger goal, then give that kid a cheese sandwich every day until he’s 20.

Remember that school and home work together as partners– so act like it. If you assume an elementary-aged kid is awake from 6:30 am until 8:30 pm, that gives them 14 hours of “awake time” each day. Everyone’s schedule is different, but my kid spends 7 hours each day, or half his awake time, at school during the week. So, it should only make sense that his school and I work as a team. I support them; they support me. So far, I’ve had nothing but fantastic things to say about what goes on at his school, but if I hit a bump in the road, like say, an assignment I think is unfair or a discipline call I don’t agree with, I’m not going to talk about it negatively in front of my kid. You know that idea about parents being on the same page, lest the kids try to play them against each other? That stuff is real, folks, and it applies to school versus home, too. If you have an issue with something, address it privately, away from little ears. And if you as a teacher have a question about something at home, never talk about it in front of the child– make a phone call or send an email to get the story. Be on the same team.

So thank you, teachers, for being people we can entrust with our children. Thank you for keeping them safe, and for educating them, and we promise to support you just as you support us!

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