I have been working with kids since I was 12 years old. Different experiences throughout my life triggered my “inner teacher,” though I never did pursue a teaching degree. I chose a more exciting and unconventional and international path for myself, but it never stopped from teaching.
Having the heart of a teacher, however, doesn’t not naturally include characteristics such as patience, compassion, gentleness, discernment and self-control. Anyone who has spent any time in the classroom knows that these traits are vital to cultivating a healthy and safe classroom environment. Without them, your hair turns gray, dark circles from under your eyes, and your voice goes hoarse at an early and premature age.
So over the many years, I have learned as many (possibly more) lessons as I have taught about not only teaching, but actually becoming a teacher. It’s bee a personal transformation, and this transformation took a surprising turn within the last year.
On September 10, 2017, I became a parent.
I was instantly thrown into limbo. I came home from the classroom where I competently and confidently deal with 15 variations of learning styles and levels and emotional needs on a daily basis to possibly one of the most difficult and needy kids I had ever met. But this was nothing new! I deal with difficulty and neediness of all kinds at all levels and ages all day! But what I faced at home was very, very different.
I had to make the emotional and mental move from teacher to parent.
This is not easy for a number of reasons, namely:
- Teachers are experts at management, routine, and control. Should anything disrupt this flow, certain steps are carried out that over time keep all the students in line. Running a family requires a much more stretchy and flexible version of this, where unpredictability and change are always being accounted for.
- Teachers carry out discipline with relatively non-emotional methods. Since the level of familiarity with each student varies, it is very important to keep things objective and fair, holding each child to the same standards in order to maintain order. Let’s be honest, this is not how order is maintained at home. Discipline can get emotional, messy, and feel extremely unfair.
- The teacher’s priority is the learning objective, whether it’s something abstract such as kindness or factual like state capitals. Learning objectives are measured, documented, and tracked to record the student’s academic growth. Learning objectives at home are not this cut and dry. In fact, it sometimes hard to believe anyone is learning anything when there is food on the floor, the TV is blaring obnoxiously high-pitched noises, and there are un-flushed specimens in the toilet. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
I began reading blogs and researching articles, as I am accustomed to do, and struggled with the conflict between my own expectations and standards and the reality of my new and sprouting relationship with my step-daughter, who, though she shared so much in common with my students, was not my student.
And that was key. My daughter was not one of my students. Yes, I would teach her things and show her how the world works and help her when she was stuck; but I would do all of that as her parent, not her teacher.
There was a common thread of personal struggle as I transitioned from teacher to parent, however, and that struggle has been volume control.
Twice I have been confronted by educators for whom I had the utmost respect about raising my voice in the classroom. Yes, I am talking about yelling. I am notorious for letting my emotions get the best of me, and any teacher knows that this is possibly one of the “Achilles heels” of teaching. As a teacher, you need to earn and maintain the respect of your students. Losing your shit in the classroom is not how you do this. It’s not how you earn the respect of your kids at home, either.
So I found myself at that familiar and humbling position on my knees again when it came to my own volume abuse. I needed to change.
Yell Less, Love More. This is the name of a book I recently grabbed off the library shelves in the parenting section. It’s a 30-day guide that includes
- 100 Alternatives to yelling
- simply, daily steps to follow
- honest stories to inspire
written by Sheila McCraith, mother to four boys. I got those bullet points right off the cover the of book.
Starting tomorrow, I am going to blog through this book over the next 30 days as my start to a new blogging season, because I definitely need to yell less and love more as a parent.
Just as having the heart of a teacher doesn’t automatically make you the kind of person your students will love, having a minor in your care doesn’t automatically make you a parent. I am still becoming, and there is so much to learn. And I’m starting with volume control.