Guest Writer: Jackie Abigail
As I sit here with one boob out, ready to feed my infant while my toddler is upstairs treating her crib like a trampoline, it hits me…I am not ready for my firstborn to attend preschool. Don’t get me wrong; I could use the break. But my own experiences as a teacher have started to plague me over and over.
Since becoming a parent, I’ve realized that though I meant well and considered myself an excellent teacher, I missed the mark where parents were concerned. I thought my vast experience and training were more than enough to make me a qualified teacher, and nothing more was needed to aid me in that endeavor. Granted, I was qualified, I loved my kids, and I’d like to believe that they loved me. But, my lack of understanding of parental struggles did me a great disservice.
Every morning my third graders began their day writing in their journals. This helped them to establish routines, learn how to overcome writer’s block, be creative, and have a safe space to share their feelings, but it was also a rigorous 45 minutes of continuous writing. One day a student’s parent stopped by my open door about 5 minutes after class had begun and waved to her son. He ran out of the room and gave her one last hug, and then ran back inside to continue with his writing. I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s sweet; they must have had a rough morning.” Well, this situation turned into a little routine, and every day this child ran out of the room at the same time. I started to get really bugged. I never actually said anything because it was only slightly disruptive to the other kids, who soon ignored the routine, BUT it did affect how I viewed the mother. Sometimes I thought she had little respect for education or our time. Sometimes I thought she was hovering too much and it would have future negative effects on her kid. Every day my mind would think of something new. I’m sure all you mothers out there think I was a horrible cranky educator. I swear I wasn’t! But I had no context for the bond a mother has with her child.
I didn’t understand the gut-wrenching feeling that comes with trusting someone else to watch over your baby. I didn’t understand that being separated from your kid can feel both liberating and chemically painful. I didn’t know that by being a mother, you were a part of the walking wounded, always wearing your heart on your sleeve. I look back at that situation and now see that mother in an entirely different light. I see that she didn’t care if she was late to work because one last hug from her son meant everything. I see that maybe she needed his embrace more than he needed it. I see a mom who did something little each day to let her boy know he was more important than anything. Could they have figured out a less disruptive way to do this? Sure. But ultimately, it did little harm, and I missed an opportunity to admire a strong woman. Instead, I berated her in my mind and thought I knew better. Now, my little 3-year-old is about to begin preschool 2 days a week, and I can’t help but hope there is a mother in that room somewhere because that woman knows sacrifice. She knows unconditional love. She knows that I may be late because my milk leaked all over my shirt, and I wanted to change it before dropping off my kid. And instead of thinking less of me, she gets it. She understands, and therefore, she continues to see both my daughter and me in a positive light.
I don’t want you to look at your child’s teachers and think that they aren’t equipped to do a good job. They are perfectly capable of teaching your child. I had great relationships with my parents, won awards, and respected the community I taught in…but I still had so much to learn. If you want to foster a better relationship with your well-intentioned, young single teacher, let him/her know where you are coming from. Explain to her what makes your relationship with your child special. Explain to him how when your child lay in the hospital bed with croup one winter day that you decided then and there that connection came first and education came second. Explain to them that you wish you were stronger but that this is equally as hard on you. Ask them for grace and give it to them in return. Teachers are busy, and they might not have time to respond to every letter or heartfelt email they receive, BUT they will read it, they will listen, and hopefully, they will learn from it.
A reformed teacher and badass mother