“A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.” – M.K.Atatürk
I am a teacher mom. A real life teacher stuck in a mom bod. It used to be the opposite – I was a mom bod stuck in a teacher world. A teacher waiting to find love, real love, have babies, change diapers, take care of my own kids for a change. Only catch is, you don’t give them back at 3pm.
Transitioning from one to the other has been really, really difficult. Teaching is not a desk job – you eat, live, and breathe it. You don’t retire, or call in sick – it’s stuck with you forever, even if it is in the deepest, darkest part of your heart. It stays alive. There is truly nothing like being a teacher and having that enormous responsibility of fashioning young minds to think and believe as you see fit. Knowing that you are sending people out into the big, bad, world and crossing your fingers in the hopes that you have lit that eternal, life-long curiousity and love of learning fire within them – with a bit of social intelligence and empathy sprinkled in. Hoping your own children are ready for the big, bad world is a whole different ball game.
Now that I am a mother of two little girls, the “Are they learning the good stuff?” fear will never, ever, leave you. You cannot pass them on to the next teacher in the hopes of reversing the damage and you sure as hell can’t give them back come 3 o’ clock. It’s on you. The constant worry that they aren’t learning enough, or learning the right things, or developing appropriately, or you aren’t doing enough to foster that love of learning. All of it is so overwhelming.
You vow not to become the crazy mom that teachers, like you, couldn’t stand. You say, “They’ll learn in time” and “The teacher has got this, I know she does!” Inside, you are petrified to even check in with your child’s teacher – too much? Too little? When Emma started preschool I was surprised by what concerned me. Emma’s ability to make friends was never lacking. She was empathetic and generous and kind. I found myself facing a whole different type of monster – would her teacher love her like I do? Would she teach her how to survive in the big, bad world? Would she instill respect and pride and humility within her? Would she make her feel strong and powerful and confident?
I was so sure that I would be focused, as a parent, on her penmanship and her literary competence that I completely lost sight of why I became a teacher in the first place. I became a teacher because I love children, because my hope was to send people out into the world with a sturdy, courageous head on their shoulders and a heart bursting with justice and compassion. That is what I want for my children, ultimately. Isn’t that what we all want? It became clear very quickly that I needed to go back to basics. Back to that hope I had for for my own students and transfer all that energy into fostering those basics in my own littles.
It was during graduate school that I heard the most brilliant description of the kind of teacher that I, myself, was aspiring to be. This depiction moved me, spoke to me and touched that deepest, darkest place in my heart. I proudly displayed this poignant piece of prose on my classroom door. I had many, many people stop to read what was written and proceed to tell me how much it touched them and how they felt that I was successfully reaching my students on that very same level. It is this belief that I return to when I doubt myself with my very own children. It brings me back to what I believe to be important, what the goal is here. I pray my children will thrive in this big, bad world, if only because “they were loved that much.”
“Their eyes may see differently, their ears may hear differently, but there is a place that bridges, which is the heart. Teach from a place of loving. Remembering that it’s not exactly what the mind learns, but what the heart carries into the world that becomes what kind of students they are. Hold them gently, but not too tightly. Allow for them and you the sovereignty to stand as beings connected to a greater whole, remembering that we are all one tribe. Stand next to the child and not above them. Teach the truth. My sweetest dream for my children is that as they walk as adults in the world they can hold their sovereignty…because they were loved that much.” – Deborah Stark