Aug
21

My New View

By

I got my first note home from school that was not all good. I need to work with Charlie on recognizing her numbers and letters. Here’s the part where I need to confess to a parenting failure as apparently, I really should have been doing that already, but didn’t know I should.  Too wrapped in my own world, I guess. Sure, I play with my daughter and spend lots of time with her on the days she’s not in school. We read together and we watch movies and we color and we snuggle. But no, I haven’t been really teaching her.

Enter wake-up call.

And enter a strange reversal of roles for me. I used to be a teacher and not yet a parent. Now I’m a parent and no longer a teacher. I’m starting to see the education world from the other side now, and the view is a little different than I thought it would be.

Oh, it’s not like was a holier-than-thou teacher who thought all parents were crazy and now that I am one, I’m changing my tune. Not at all. After all, I am a middle child and I am pretty empathetic and diplomatic by nature, and as a teacher, those traits found their way into my relationships with parents.

I remember sitting in a team meeting once with a former student’s parents. Two parents, four or five teachers, an administrator, and a counselor. One by one the teachers discussed the difficulty he/she was having with the child. Then the administrator discussed strategies and consequences, and the counselor talked about the role she would play. It wasn’t pleasant. And I just kept looking at the parents thinking, Man, this is their KID. And here we are sitting around talking about how difficult he is. How freakin’ hard this must be for them.

One of my first parental run-ins as a teacher involved a mother going totally batshit over a spelling bee. Yes, a spelling bee and a rookie mistake on my part as the sole moderator and judge of said bee. It’s a long story, but the upshot was a girl who was declared the winner, was really not. The debacle was a result of my error. I knew that, admitted that, and apologized. Profusely. No matter. To read the scathing letter that wound up in my principal’s office the next day, one would have thought I ruined this kid’s self esteem and her chances for Harvard in one fell swoop. I don’t’ remember the specifics of the letter but it went way past the “my kid has been wronged and how dare you” stage and tumbled off the deep end with crazy accusations and threats.

As I was flipping out a little when my principal read me the letter—overreacting to this parent’s overreaction—I very clearly remember her saying something like, “You’ll do the same thing when you have kids.”

I quickly retorted, “Oh no I won’t. Of course I will stand up for my child when need to, but I will NOT go about it this way. I get that she’s upset. She has a right to be. But this is not the way to handle it.”

During my fourteen years as a teacher, I dealt with lots of students and lots of parents. I saw lots of mistakes (because it’s always easy to see parents’ mistakes when the kids aren’t yours, right?) and I saw lots of great things too.

Well, now it’s my turn as the parent. And lo and behold, I’m making some mistakes.

So when I first read the note from Charlie’s teacher, many thoughts raced through my mind. First, I got a bit embarrassed. (OMG, these teachers must think I’m the lamest mother ever! I can’t believe I didn’t think to be working on these with her!) And then my internal pendulum swung the other way, and I got all defensive and judgmental. (Well, what is their curriculum exactly then? They can’t expect her to recognize all the letters at once if she hasn’t done this before! Are they even going about teaching her the right way?) And then I got just plain panicked. (What if Charlie isn’t smart? What if she really struggles in school and I don’t know how to help her? Will this be a battle for her her whole life?)

But then, I stopped.

And I took a breath.

And I remembered all those parents who must have had those same kinds of thoughts when I was the teacher.

So I took in my new view from my new seat at the parent/teacher table.

As a teacher, my view was a worried parent and a child that needed help.

As a parent , I thought my view would be a caring teacher that I would look to with empathy and understanding. And it was.

But the view was also much bigger than that.

It was a caring teacher and a child’s, MY child’s future– an expanse of unknown I was not quite prepared for.

The note home reminded me that I have a huge responsibility for my daughter’s education. There will be many hurdles to get past, and many decisions to make. She’s only in preschool. This is only the beginning. Hell, it’s only the beginning of the beginning. I will remember and use the lessons I learned in the classroom. I will use my experience and time as a teacher to be more objective and more informed about my daughter’s education.

I know that having been a teacher will help me in my journey as a parent. But now, from my new view, I also know now that it’s not enough. As a parent, there’s simply so much more at stake. My child’s future is in my view.

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Comments

  1. LeeWee says:

    Seriously???? Are they aware that she is only 3??? This is ridiculous! Actually if they read any research at all…. what you are doing is developing a child with a strong sense of caring, love, and most importantly imagination. This leads to better problem-solving in a world that lacks this quality. You should be proud of what she is and tell them to go scratch! And yes I would say the same things if she wasn’t my niece. xoxoxo

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    Kelly Reply:

    Oh, I didn’t mean to make things sound grave or anything. The teachers weren’t super concerned; but the fact of the matter is they’re working on getting the kids to recognize the letters and numbers and most (or at least some) of them can. I read up some and ability to do this varies widely at this age. I’m not freaking out about it (anymore). It was just a kick start for me to realize that yes, there are things she can learn and I need to pay better attention.

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  2. Irene Landon says:

    Your first reaction was absolutely normal, but, like Lee Ann says, she is THREE! I really don’t think they should even start that stuff until they are four. And I bet most of the kids went home with the same note!

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  3. Helene says:

    Geezo, Kelly! I was the mother AND the teacher, remember? And if that happened now with James? I’d say the same thing… HE’S THREE. What about kids that NEVER get to go to preschool? What about those families that absolutely cannot afford pre-school? Somehow, some way, they WILL learn their letters. And yes, I was one of those parents who worked with my kids, you know that already! But I am also one of those parents who still believe that the bulk of the child’s education should COME FROM THE SCHOOL, NOT THE PARENTS.

    Have fun teaching Charlie her letters but for God’s sake, you are now living in New Jersey and their schools are the FINEST in the United States. When Charlie gets to kindergarten, EXPECT to be pleased with the end-result of the highest property tax state also.

    GOOD LORD, I’m incensed on your behalf!

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    Kelly Reply:

    Oh, how I remember, Helenie :-) But I wasn’t incensed, really. It just surprised me. The fact is that she came into a new preschool and class where most of those kids have been there a long time, and they DO recognize their letters. No harm is asking the mom to work with her a bit at home.

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