Not a Parent? You Can’t Be a Good Teacher.

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?



Molly Reed

Molly Reed

Tucson, Arizona

My classroom teaching experience has been in Tucson’s urban public schools with grades first through fifth. Beginning my eleventh year of teaching, I am the Outdoor Learning Coordinator at a Project Based Learning primary school. I am a National Board Certified Teacher (ECGen) with a BA in Elementary Education and MA in Teaching and Teacher Education from the University of Arizona.

My introduction to teaching occurred during a National Outdoor Leadership School semester which led me to work as an outdoor educator traveling throughout the United States and South America. I am interested in connecting with other educators and those interested in the changes in schools with education policy.

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