Thursday, June 16, 2011

Having Kids Made Me A Better Teacher

Being a parent makes me a better teacher. Yes, I know that not everyone will agree with that statement but hear me out. Teachers, as with any professional, have various events, relationships, and experiences that shape their professional identity. Simply put, we turn out to be the teachers we are largely due to a lifetime of experiences that influence us in one way or the other. I realize we have formal training, but let’s be honest, that really does not do anything to make us better teachers. I learned a great deal of history content, but the craft of teaching was learned in the hours of observations and student teaching. For me, I need to DO something in order to learn it and get good at it.


The first few years I taught, I was mediocre at best. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. By the third year, I felt like I was finally starting to earn my paycheck. Kids were engaged, parents didn’t hate me, and I had built a great relationship with my peers. However, one of the biggest things that had a positive impact on my teaching was when I had children of my own.

Now this is not to say my instruction or teaching strategies changed because they didn’t. However, I have a different perspective in not only how to deal with kids but also with parents. When you put your child on a bus and send them off to school for the first time like I did last year, it hits you. It is not an easy thing to send your child off to a relatively perfect stranger. There is an anxiety and almost fear that first day. Will my child make friends? Will he get picked on? Will he be a bully? Will he pee his pants? Will the teacher find his sense of humor that was greatly influenced by his father funny or appropriate? All of those questions and many more went through my head as I am sure it does nearly every parent that sends their kid to school.

Having gone through that anxiety and the struggles of sending a kid to school, I can relate to parents on a new level. For starters, when I talk to parents I have common ground as a parent myself. There is a certain amount of credibility in what I say because I have been in their shoes. If you don’t have kids yourself, can you look in a parent’s eyes and tell them you know how they feel? I share openly of my own experiences with my student’s parents and that often opens a door of communication and rapport that was not possible before.

In addition to the parents, I approach how I deal with kids much differently. I am not going to say I ever wrote a kid off, but there were certainly kids that burned me out and pushed me to my limits. If I am being honest, I got to a point where I pulled away and put less effort into them. That is no longer the case. How would I feel if a teacher ever gave up in the slightest bit with my kid? I try to make every effort to treat each kid as my own. I go out f my way to connect to the quiet kid and the kids that don’t typically stand out. What kind of teacher would I want for my kids? That is the type of teacher I try to be. I know I will continue to work on this and evolve my thinking as my own kids get older, but it is a start.

Again, did my teaching change when I had kids? Not really…but my perspective did and how I approach my relationships with both parents and students. I am not saying teachers without kids are bad teachers. Nor am I saying that those with kids are better. What I will say is that having kids gives you insight and perspective that you cannot have otherwise.