Fellow teachers, this has been a WEEK!
We are about a week out from Spring Break, and if you teach you know that means crazy kids and looooong weeks. We had a few nice days this week, so we finally got to go outside for recess again! Trust me, the teachers love this just as much as the kids. We don’t get to chat with each other any other time! So, as we solved the world’s problems and vented about our crazy days, I overheard someone say,
“being a parent makes you a better teacher, but being a teacher does not make you a better parent.”
Interesting. I mulled it over and found that I couldn’t comment because I really wasn’t sure if I agreed. The conversation was long past that point by the time I realized that no, I didn’t agree with that statement. Now, I love my friend who said it, and she has her own reasons and experiences that led her to that opinion. My experience, however, has led to a different conclusion. (Read THIS POST for a bit of background on that!)
Here are the reasons that being a teacher has made me a better mom.
I Don’t Take Behaviors Personally
My first experience dealing with behaviors was when I was in college completing my practicum hours in a 4th grade classroom. I remember thinking, “why isn’t she listening to me! I am being so patient! ” Notice the me and I in those sentences? I quickly learned that behaviors aren’t about “me,” they are about the child. Behaviors, for the most part, are an expression of something they need, and have nothing to do with the teacher. Once I realized that the behavior of a child is not a personal attack, it became much easier to manage them objectively.
Now, as the parent of a bossy toddler, I know not to get emotionally invested in her outbursts. Tantrums and fits are inevitable, but kids need to see the adults in their lives holding it together, especially when they are feeling out of control! It gives them comfort, I believe, and helps to shorten the outburst. As Belle gets older, I know it will be harder and harder to control my emotions, but I know from classroom experience not to take the behaviors personally.
I’ve “Practiced” My Behavior Management
Since teachers are constantly using behavior management strategies in their classrooms, we have an arsenal at our disposal when we encounter a behavior at home. Every child is different and will respond to different techniques, and we know not every strategy will work for every child. Teachers are resilient, however. I have used so many different types of behavior management practices in my classroom over the years, so I feel like I have “tested them out” and found my favorites. You know I love my routines! (Remember my Math Centers post?)
Everyone, both teacher and parent, has their own unique approach to discipline. I now know that I operate best under a positive reinforcement model, with extreme consistency and unwavering commitment to predetermined rewards/consequences. Having that classroom experience first allowed me a clearer focus on how to manage behaviors at home.
Teachers Know the Energy Required to Keep Up!
There is no amount of preparing that can completely ready you for the exhaustion of motherhood, but seriously the next best thing has got to be teaching! I bop around that classroom like a Jack Russel terrier to keep my students engaged and I am positively pooped by 2:30. At the very least, teachers understand how short a child’s attention span is and can properly adjust their delivery when the kids start to lose focus.
Most teachers I know use “Brain Breaks” and kinesthetic classroom techniques so our students aren’t sitting still all day. This is because we know that kids just aren’t wired that way. I do my best to allow Belle to roam and wiggle whenever possible. If we go out to eat, I can tell when it’s time to “take a lap.” We get out of the high chair and walk around the restaurant or outside for a few minutes. It takes a lot of energy to keep children engaged, but nobody does it better than a teacher.
Teachers Know What is Expected in a School Setting
In the same way that a coach will know more of what is expected of a baseball player, a teacher knows what is expected of kids at school. This DOES NOT mean that teachers’ kids are smarter, by any means. Teachers just know what kids are expected to know and how they are expected to act in school because we hang out in a school all day. 🙂 We naturally begin to “teach” our own children because we just can’t help it! ABC’s, 123’s, and everything in between. Teachers are also acutely aware of the social constructs of school and can help prepare their own children for the realities of classroom life.
Don’t judge a teacher by her car! Ok, don’t judge me by my car. Luckily, I am not the only teacher whose car is the complete antithesis of her classroom. You cannot be a successful teacher without a good organizational system, and that translates well into parenthood. Whether it is the lesson plans or the doctor’s appointments, grading papers or packing the baby up for daycare, we HAVE to be on top of things. Nothing has prepared me better than teaching when it comes to organization!
Parents quickly develop the ability to anticipate the needs of their munchkins. Going out to the store no longer involves just a purse and a grocery list. Moms know that at least 2 snacks, the correct Cookie Monster cup with the correct color straw, and the emergency Abby Cadabby doll are all required, in addition to the diapers and wipes. In the same way, teachers learn to anticipate the needs of their students. We can read our students’ faces so well and we monitor and adjust our instruction daily to meet their ever changing needs.
Sound familiar? Yeah, parents do this all day long, too. We learn to read our kids and know when they are going to blow, need a change of scenery to calm down, or are really into learning something new.
We Know Our Kid is Not a “Special Snowflake”
Don’t get me wrong. I love my little girl more than anything and she is the most perfect little human in my eyes. What is not lost on me, however, is the fact that every other mother in the world feels the same way about their little ones. My daughter is no better than anyone else. She is no more entitled to special treatment than the girl down the street.
Teachers constantly have to deal with parents who are wholeheartedly convinced that their child is entitled to something better. I am well aware that my little princess is going to forget her homework one day, and I have no intention of bringing it to her and demanding the teacher accept it late. My “Special Snowflake” needs to know that the rules apply to her.
The Ability to help a Child Express Their Needs
One of the greatest skills I have developed over my teaching career is communication. Specifically, the ability to communicate well with children, and more importantly help teach them how to effectively communicate to others. I have learned how to model appropriate expression, and I have been able to help students explain their feelings before they become aggressive or upset. Communication is an art form, and it is not always easy to do. I have read that a lot of tantrums stem from an inability to communicate a want or need. This holds true for older students and special needs students as well. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling like you aren’t being properly heard or understood. I spend hours teaching communication skills and displaying listening skills so that my students feel heard and understood. I want them to know how to explain themselves appropriately.
It was because of this that I started teaching Belle to sign early on. I try to be patient as she attempts to tell me what she needs or wants. We don’t reinforce grunting or pointing, but try to show her how to effectively let us know what she’s saying. Also, we try to coach her not to become upset, but to explain what she is saying in a different way until she’s successful.
More than anything, as a teacher, you learn how to show love and patience to a child. They will try you, defy you, stretch you to your limits, and still you show them love and compassion. (to their face 🙂 ) If God didn’t give you patience, you will certainly gain the skill over the years in the classroom. This comes in handy when your baby has pulled every shoe off of your shoe rack in the closet and as you turn around to put them all back, she walks over with the dog’s water bowl-spilling the whole way through your bedroom. Hopefully there is enough patience for ALL the kids….
~The Flip Side~
The other side of the coin is that as teachers, we generally have the attention of approximately 30 children, 7 hours a day. They believe what we say, listen to directions, and for the most part show respect.
It is a hard reality to come home to when your own children don’t revere you like your students do. My daughter is not my student, the relationship is different. On the drive home from work I have to transform from teacher to mother, and that is a difficult transition for me. I’m a work in progress, constantly!
So there you have it! 1700 words later, it appears I don’t agree with her statement. Who knew a recess chat could amount to so much! Being a teacher first has definitely helped me as I’ve become a parent. I’ve said it before: I was meant to be a teacher, and I was meant to be a mom. I love doing both and I am thankful for the lessons I am learning along the way.