Those quick, yet “I can’t believe they said that” converstations with parents usually drift away after a few days after sharing with colleagues, but some have stuck for years. After discussing progress reports at parent teacher conferences my first year of teaching, a mother said to me, “You don’t know. You don’t have kids.”
I was taken aback. Was she saying I could not understand my students because I didn’t have a child of my own? She was the first, but not the last parent to say that to me.
Can you be a good teacher if you are not a parent?
Back then, I thought they were crazy. Yes, they the parents. I was dedicated, hard working, and I knew their kids. I walked through those school doors two hours before the start of the day and stayed until the custodians kicked me out. I ensured them I was qualified. I earned my Masters and then achieved National Board Certification. Clearly, these parents had it wrong. I was a darn good teacher without being like them.
I went nine years of teaching with this mindset, and then I welcomed a baby into my life.
All I can say is it IS different now. Two changes stick out most. First, I definitely do not put in the hours I once did, but I have become better at time management. I take school home instead of making school my home. But to me, the second and most fascinating change is I see students and their parents differently. Sure, you could say in a different light, but it is more than that. I understand more of what their lives are like outside of school. I look at every parent and relate to more of their experiences than when I was not called Mama. I understand why at conferences they may come in with demanding force, and hope they leave now with less worry and more belief in the job I do. Does this make me a better teacher than my childless colleagues? I don’t think so, but I am a better teacher than I was before.
But, as I leave work a minute or so after my contract hours, I wonder if some might conclude the opposite: You’re a parent? You can’t be a good teacher.
What do you think?
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