I am sorry…
From your child’s Teacher (and a new mom).
“Do you even have children??”
It’s often a challenge levied against a teacher (especially a young one) who dares to disagree with a parent. It’s meant to shut you up, and shut you down.
At this point in my career I have taught over 500 children. I’ve wiped their tears and their bums, cleaned up their vomit, tied their shoelaces, taught them to count, to read, to question, to value, and to be a critical thinker. Yet that one question from an angry mom never failed to cut to the marrow, leaving me questioning my experience, my qualifications, and even my motives.
It’s a low blow, and it often has the desired effect of devaluing the teacher’s opinion and confidence.
Is it ever justified as a question? As a challenge? Can you be an effective teacher and truly understand children without having your own?
I would answer unequivocally, “Hell, yes!”
Teachers are skilled, trained professionals. We spend countless hours studying child development, theories of learning, and approaches to teaching. We then apply that knowledge daily, in one of the most introspective and self-evaluative careers available. Before having a child of my own, I understood children, emotionally, physically, socially, pedagogically.
What I didn’t understand was mothering.
That fierce animalistic need to defend your child against threats – both perceived and actual – on their academic ability, or their behavior, is so ingrained and primal that it defies logic. As a mom, I know full well I'm being unreasonable. But its almost impossible to be impartial when it comes to your prodigy.
Before I became a mom, I'd watch parents cry at their child’s Christmas concerts or recitals and inwardly roll my eyes, thinking how sappy they were, and how they clearly needed interests of their own.
On the first day of school, as a mother of a kindergartner cried even harder than the child being dropped off, I thought about how she was making the situation so much worse. I even theorized that she was manipulating her child by crying, trying to elicit an emotional response from the child to make her feel needed and important.
I would decry the lunch choices, the strange clothing combinations, the forgotten permission slips, the incomplete homework, the lack of attendance at school functions. I judged and judged and judged. Even if many of these judgments may have been necessary, or correct, it doesn’t matter, because I was missing a vital element of the bigger picture.
I didn’t understand mothers. I didn’t understand how the most talented, accomplished, independent, professional women can turn to mush at the sound of their child butchering the national anthem.
I didn’t understand how a little persons struggles and frustrations could hurt a mothers heart so deeply. I didn’t understand how being a mother was the hardest and easiest part of their day, the most loved and the most hated, the place where they excelled and failed, all at the same time.
I didn’t understand mothers. And for that, I am sorry.