Wednesday, April 19, 2017

And Then I Had Kids: How Becoming a Parent Changed Me as a Teacher

I still remember my first year of teaching a parent came to me and said, "Well, you don't understand; you don't have kids." To be honest, I was kind of offended and by kind of, I mean just offended.

I forget in what particular context the comment was said, but it was one of those parent comments that I will never forget.  How could they say that?  I am always thinking about the kids and what's best for them.

Then, I had kids. As as much as I would never say that to a teacher...ever.., there's some truth to it.  You just look at things a little bit differently.

I constantly ask myself what I want for my own child.  I see the struggles and mistakes I probably made as a teacher and how there were definitely times I wasn't, looking back, doing what I could have done for a student like my own.  Don't get me wrong: I tried really hard to make sure I was making the best decisions possible, and I don't judge myself for what I could have done differently.  You don't know what you don't know and a day only has 24 hours.

Like the importance of differentiation and not just in terms of more but different.  I tried to differentiate for my students as often as possible, but until you have a kid coming home with activities and assignments that are either way too easy or way too difficult, it's hard to walk in those shoes.

I get it; sometimes we, as teachers, need everyone to do the same thing in order to get a baseline.  I get it; it's more work for the teacher and there are only so many hours in the day. I get it; at the end of the day, every student has to pass the same test for the state.  By no means am I saying that we should give second grade work to an eighth grader because that is where they are academically, but scaffolding needs to take place.

On the other end of the spectrum, it is easy as teachers to forget to challenge the gifted students in our classroom.  We know they will pass the state test, so it is easy to divert our attention and efforts to those students who might not pass, but please don't.

It's easy to do.  An extra school-wide assembly gets added, so one of the reading groups needs to get dropped.  Which one normally goes?  The high group.   You get overwhelmed and run out of time to make an assignment, so you don't have time to create something for all the main leveled groups in your room.  Which group just gets the basic assignment?  The high group.

You have RTI time, but is there a time carved out for your high ability students to be challenged? In so many situations the answer is no and that saddens me.

I truly like to tell myself that I thought about all these things before I had my own children, but it is just different.  I look at students and I see my own son or daughter.  Is this what I want for my own children?  Is this the classroom, the activity, the daily school life that my own children deserve?  Sometimes the answer is absolutely; sometimes, sadly, the answer is no.

Being a mom changed me.  As I look back at my first year of teaching and that parent comment, I see the subtle truth to it.  I always wanted what was best for my students, but when you see your own child's eyes in your students' faces, it takes on a whole new meaning.

Simple question: Would you want your own child having the experience of the students in your classroom?


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