Thursday, February 17, 2011

Teachers and Moms: what they need most

There is a huge difference between a teacher who doesn't have children and a teacher who does.
There is a difference between a teacher who has children and a teacher who has children who have struggled or still do (most parents have at least one) and are still raising them or they haven't been gone from home for too long.  There just is.  Personally, I prefer the latter, to the nth degree!

I have been a teacher without children.  I was a child who did not struggle in school academically.  Sure, I was a little socially awkward, but I had friends.  I could read social cues.  Sure, I had my disciplinary moments, but I never remember crying over homework until I was in at least middle school or high school, and even then, it was minor. 

I have a college degree in elementary education.  I feel that I got a really good education from a really reputable, good university.  I taught for three years, and by the end of the three years, I felt like I was finally starting to get a hang of it all.  I was in my element.   My abilities to teach the curriculum were improving, and my empathy for my students were growing.  It was hard to quit teaching because I felt myself improving and progressing so much, but I didn't realize that I was missing some very important qualities and skills -- the skills that are the difference in a good teacher and an excellent teacher.

Let me be honest and say that no matter how much you've worked with kids, if you are not a parent of one who has struggled, you're missing something in your teaching vision (unless you just have this skill, which I know of some who do).  You just are.  I speak from experience.  I did not know what I lacked until the past two years.

I call it "vision" because until you've lived with it and seen it every day, you don't see what parents see.  Try as you might, you don't have that empathy.  How do I know?  I didn't have it.  I wanted to have it.  I had sympathy and felt bad, but I still didn't get it.  I think back on specific children that I taught that I wish I'd had the vision then.  I wish I could feel what the parents were feeling.

J.R. has had some fabulous teachers and therapists, but I can tell you who obviously didn't get it and who did.  His current teacher GETS IT.  He is safe, secure and loved in her classroom.  I feel that he is safe, secure, and loved in her classroom.  She listens to me.  I don't have to plead my son's case very hard.  She's willing to try new things -- anything to help him succeed and feel successful.  I feel like we are a team, and this is what moms need most: teammates. Not a boss; not a know-it-all; not a professor, A TEAM.

I never feel like she is the teacher taking control, telling me what works best because she has the degree: because she is the teacher.  I KNOW I did that several times.  I never hear, "but LeMira . . ." unless it's "but he's doing so well, and I just think the world of him." 

For example, in recent weeks, I had been informed of a study* done a few years ago about the effectiveness of exercise balls replacing chairs in classrooms, especially for children with ADD, ADHD, and an ASD (autism spectrum disorder).  At the parent/teacher conference last week, I mentioned it to J.R.'s teacher, and asked how she felt about me bringing one in for him.  Not even hesitating she responded, "Absolutely.  Let's try it."  After one day of it, she wanted one for every student in her classroom.  J.R. takes the ball with him to math and to his special ed classroom.  Mrs. D. has the vision, and I love her for it.

Another teacher at my son's school who gets it is the librarian.  She and I hit it off when we discovered that her oldest son struggled with the same things that J.R. has been struggling.   Her son is twelve years older, but she has done so much.  When I vented to her about homework and trying to figure out something that works, she immediately volunteered her services.  For the last week, J.R. and I go to the library after school while she helps him with his homework.  He won't fight with her like he does with me (because I'm the mom), and he does better for her.  I help her daughter who is the same age as J.R. stay focused and answer her homework questions.  It's sort of a trade-off, although I think I'm getting a better deal (I think I need to make her some cookies or take her to lunch. . . hmm. . .).   This teacher has the vision.

I thank the Lord that He guided me to put my son in this charter school with teachers who get it.  One day, if I ever go back to be a classroom teacher, I know that my vision will be different.  I only hope that I will "get it," too.



*Here's a USA Today article written about one example:  No Chairs, Students get the "Wiggles Out" on Exercise Balls.   (If you want a copy of one of the research papers done on it, I can email it in PDF format to you, just let me know.)

1 comment:

Ruth Ann said...

Congratulations! Yippee! How wonderful! I'm all for it!