Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Parents as Teachers

parentingIn Do Parents Make Better Teachers? from Apace of Change, damian asks,

“…how has having children of your own influenced your professional practice?”

I look back to when I first started teaching and I’m almost embarrassed as to my thoughts and philosophies at the time. I was young and fresh out of college. I was unmarried but I was going to change the world because I had all the answers (or so I thought at the time). I knew how to solve my students’ problems and I knew I could help them be all that I thought they should be.

I sometimes wonder how obnoxious my fellow colleagues must have thought I was. Maybe they thought I was idealistic but maybe they thought I was a know-it-all too. How many actually avoided me and my “perfect” thoughts?

When I saw parents with their children during family events, or PTA meetings, or even conferences, I would think that they didn’t discipline their children in the way I thought they should or that I would raise my children much differently if I were that parent! I had taken those psychology courses in college as well as those child development courses in order to know the perfect way to manage and change behavior of children. I had read all the required textbooks and even gotten an A in all the required courses in order to become a teacher.

Oh my!

Then I got married and became a parent.

Life looked much different on the other side of the fence.

Parenting is hard. Managing and changing behavior does not happen like they talk about in those textbooks and in those courses. All of those situations were hypothetical. But real life is so much different. In real life, you are dealing with emotions that cannot be conveyed in hypothetical situations.

As a parent, I learned to be patient and consistent. Before this, I thought that students should respond immediately to my requests but in real life, that may or may not happen. I need to stand firm and be consistent in my behavior management strategies but in real life, when dealing with emotions, this is much harder to do than in those hypothetical situations.

As a parent I learned to fight the battles that were worth fighting. Before this, I thought every battle should be fought in order to show the students who was in control. I think in those hypothetical situations, I was learning how to become the one in control and the way they teach this is to make every battle important.

As a parent I learned that caring and sincerity is vital to having relationships with children. They will see right through you if you are fake. During my training, I don’t think they stress this as much as the mechanical motions I needed to learn in order to become a teacher. In today’s society, a teacher needs to worry about touching students (even if it is innocent) or saying the wrong things that could be misconstrued. As a parent I know the fine line and understand better how not to cross it. I think maturity has helped me decide where that line is.

As a parent I learned that I don’t have to be a child’s friend. They have enough friends. They need someone to guide them when necessary and to be there to support them when they need support. I don’t think a student’s friend is mature enough at this point to be that person.

So, yes, I believe being a parent has totally influenced my professional practice. I think being a parent has helped improve my teaching skills.

Yet, I think my ideas and beliefs were okay even when I was an unmarried teacher. I believe that if I was that far off the mark, my colleagues would have been there to rein me in and give me a reality check.

At this time in my life (when I sheepishly look back on those times), I would like to thank all of my colleagues who tolerated my idealistic thoughts and behavior at the time because I believed I was right. I appreciate their patience and tolerance while I thought I could change the world single handedly.

I think as my thought and beliefs changed over the years, my earlier thoughts and beliefs helped build the foundation I needed in order to become successful in my teaching career.

If you are a parent who is a teacher, how would you answer this question? If you aren’t a parent, do you think it would make a difference to your current way of teaching?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Fatherhood, By Robert Scoble'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035555243@N01/434985492 by: Thomas Hawk


C Russell said...

Great post! I too feel that becoming a parent myself has changed my perspective drastically. I understand how it feels to advocate for your child, even though it may be perceived as being "pushy". My other big realization is homework. With so few evening hours to spend with my kids each day, the last thing I want to do is fight over homework!
Thanks for the post!

Lindsey Shurtliff said...

Parents are the best teachers. I've been thinking about how to teach kids about government (I have several nephews). I am starting research for a masters thesis about this. What do you think?


Spread it around if you want too.

loonyhiker said...

@C Russell: Isn't it amazing when we see things from a different perspective. Thanks for mentioning homework because I forgot about that. Thanks for your comments!

loonyhiker said...

@Lindsey Shurtliff I liked your video. I think it is important to teach children/students through actions and your video emphasizes that. The actual doing is probably more informative to them then just listening to lectures. Good luck on your master's thesis!

carrie said...

As a parent, but not a teacher, I chuckled at your "young idealistic self" I am glad you were that way and that you continue to be so, even now when you "know more". You never know when your idealism might have influenced someone to try a little harder or to look at something a bit different.

loonyhiker said...

@Carrie Thanks for your comments. Sometimes when I look back, I feel kind of embarrassed and ashamed at myself. Once I became a parent, I realized how hard parents try to do the best they can. I guess this just shows that until you walk in someone's shoes, you really don't know what they are going through.