I’d been teaching for five years before I had my first son… then, I taught for five more years before I had a school-aged child. For 10 years I created report cards, lessons, projects, and homework assignments to the very best of my ability… like every other teacher in the world. But, that September morning when I put my greatest love on a bus and sent him into another’s classroom, I began to look at teaching with new eyes… parent/teacher eyes.
As my sons have navigated through their early years of public education, they’ve had the greatest teachers. They’ve learned so much… and just like everything else in life, they’ve taught me so much. Navigating parenthood with school-aged children has created a shift in my teaching style and approach.
Being a parent has changed me as a teacher. This is what I’ve learned…so far…
As you know, teaching can be hard. Sometimes we have a class filled with a bunch of challenging students… or even one challenging student… and that student makes the days even MORE challenging. It’s hard to be patient with him. It’s hard to love him and care for him… but parenthood has reminded me that maybe that challenging student is MY child. What if I’m sending the most difficult student into a teacher’s classroom each day? How do I want him to be treated? With kindness. With patience. With love.
When I became, a mom I realized that all of us mothers are doing the best we can… we’d love to send perfect angels into school each morning, but if we fall short of our goals, we hope that they’ll be educated and loved in spite of their flaws. So, in the classroom, when a sassy student pushes one of my buttons I try to remember to respond with kindness… if not for him… for his mother’s sake.
My husband is a teacher, too. That means that he and I are on top of all long-term projects and assignments and have homework assignments completed with ease each night, right? No. We actually joke all the time that the teachers in the teachers’ lounge are saying…”Two teachers in that house and they can’t get their kids to complete _____.” It’s true. All our years of advanced education and we still struggle to get homework and long-term projects completed in our house. It was actually during a timeline project that had us trying to print pictures and write captions and get poster board and make a straight line when everyone in the house was snapping at each other when I realized that there has to be a better way to get these big projects done.
Before I was a mom, I just assigned a huge project and had my students write down the due date. Yes, I talked all about chunking the assignment up into smaller pieces..and I fooled myself into thinking that my students were chugging along on their assignment before the due date. Then, when I became a mother I realized that most houses are probably just like mine and they’re all waiting until the last minute to do the project…and bickering..and struggling..and rushing. So, these days instead of just giving students a single due date, I give them three due dates. I do the chunking for my students. I think it helps..or perhaps I’m just creating three family fights instead?
As a young teacher, I’d always stress when an administrator walked into my classroom. I’d become hyper-aware of my actions and my words. I’d try to do my job to an exceptional level. I thought that he or she was the person watching and evaluating about my work.
Then… during our first dinner after my son’s first day of school, I realized that the most careful watcher and critic of my classroom was not my administrator. It was the 24 students sitting in front of me each day. From that first day of school to today, my kids share a bunch about their teachers. Really awesome things. Really funny things. Really inspiring things… and really human things. They share things like, “She was on her phone all afternoon,” or “She just sat at her desk and asked us to color,” or “She eats candy for breakfast.” Of course, as parents we know that our kids exaggerate and speak in generalities, so we let their words go in one ear and out the other. However, as my kids babble about their teachers, I remember that at that very moment 24 other kids might be babbling about me and my words and actions. So, I’ve shifted my early actions of impressing my administrator and now try to act more professional when he/she leaves the classroom… after all, I have 24 more important people to impress.
Early in my teaching career, I made it a point to assign homework every night. Every. Night. I thought homework was super important.
But, since having my boys I’ve come to realize that homework is a family interruption… and sometimes it can become a family eruption… a parent-child tug-of-war. We’ve had many nights of challenging homework completion in my home and there’s nothing more frustrating than when we’re fighting over a crossword puzzle or math worksheet or other worksheet that feels a lot more like busy work and a lot less like a true extension or practice for the day’s learning. So, that’s why my focus has shifted from assigning homework to assigning purposeful work. If there’s not a natural assignment that extends my students’ learning, then there’s no homework that night.
I’ve also come to realize something else — sometimes my home is so busy on a particular night that my kids just don’t have enough time to allot to an assignment. That’s why I started the practice of handing out FAMILY HOMEWORK PASSES during Parent Information Night.
I give each family two passes ,and my students are welcome to use them throughout the school year. So, on a busy family night my kids and their families can skip the homework and focus on the truly important stuff: Family.
P.S. Since not everyone can get to Parent Information Night, I send home the passes as well.
Just the words “report cards” can send a teacher like me into a tailspin. With so many students and classes, they’re a complete bear to write and prepare. In my early years I spent days preparing report cards and filling them with the standardized comments associated with them.
Then, when my son came home with his first report card, I had a revelation. I read each comment and they sounded so automated, so robotic, so mass-produced. There was nothing in that report card that gave me the impression that the teacher truly knew my child. And I knew that she did. I knew that she was a great teacher. So that got me wondering… how many parents reviewed the report cards I slaved over throughout the years and thought the same thing? So, during the next quarter, I decided to input less of the standard comments and instead write one or two truly personalized comments about each students’ learning, progress, and contribution to class. What a difference! I spent about the same amount of time doing report cards, but ended up with report cards that actually reported something meaningful.
Finally, more than ever being a parent has taught me that we’re all truly trying our best. Teachers and parents want the same thing… to work to create the kindest, smartest, and happiest kids that we can. We’re all in this together!
Thanks for stopping by,
P.S. Click here for a FREE copy of the Family Homework Passes.