Saturday, October 6, 2007

What being a mother has taught me about teaching

I am not going to say that being a mother has helped me be a better teacher. I don't believe in this statement. You can be an extraordinary teacher and not be a mother, it's not a prerequisite. However, these are the things I see in myself...

First, I have a clear understanding of this age group. My daughter is currently a first grader, I teach first grade. I know how long she has known her numbers from 0-100. I know how confident she is with those numbers. I expect her to know them, but when she doesn't I can remember that she hasn't known them for that long. I can expect bumps in the road, and I can still expect great things. I do this with my own students. Especially with the students that have no support. I think, "imagine how they are struggling in this world, they have had no support." This makes me a more compassionate teacher.

Second, my daughters hate to be yelled at, they hate to be told what to do, they hate to be reprimanded. So do kids in my class! I have learned that if I want anyone (adults and children) to do something appropriately I must ask them kindly to do it. And using the phrase, "Can you help me with this?" really helps. Kids want to be helpers. They want do well. They also desire consistency. If I want them to do something I must provide the environment, full of routine, in order for them to be successful.

Third, children aren't pre-programmed when they are born. They don't know all the social graces that we have currently. They must be shown those graces by adults. My children will say something or do something that I think, what in the world? They have never seen this situation and they are either responding in the way they have seen someone else respond, or they are just flying by the seat of their pants. What if you grew up in a home where the way to respond to anything was to yell, scream, hit, punish, fight, etc. How would you respond in the classroom, on the playground, in the cafeteria? My favorite phrase to say to kids is, "perhaps you didn't know, I will explain for you for the next time this happens." Instead of providing that yelling, screaming, punishing adult I provide that calm, assertive, understanding adult. I don't think I would have been this adult if I hadn't been a mother. I was that adult before children, and I am so thankful that I wasn't a teacher during that time.

I had a situation this week where a kiddo was crying because he made a mistake on his morning work. I took a deep breath and evaluated the situation: he is a perfectionist, he likes to do his best, he is upset at himself, and he doesn't want anyone to make fun of him. These are all good qualities! Instead of saying, "Oh, it's okay, shake it off, come on let's go!" I said, "Wow, it must be really disappointing that you made a mistake. I know that you always try to do your very best! I want you to know that everyone makes mistakes, our promise says that, but we still think you are the smartest boy ever! It is okay if you want to just put that work away and make a decision to do better on morning work tomorrow." Kids need to know that it is okay to make mistakes, but they also need an adult to acknowledge how they feel about these mistakes.
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3 comments:

Mimi said...

There is a wonderful article by Karen Zumwalt about the connections between becoming a teacher and becoming a new mother. Your post made me think of it. Check it out on Google Scholar...it's called "Teachers and Mothers: Facing New Beginnings."

Christi Overman said...

I really appreciate your comment that you can be a good teacher without being a mother...I'm not a mom and I think I do fine. I will say that having kids probably does enhance your insight, though!

katied said...

What you have for your kids and what it seems that you are teaching is compassion...you know what they need, where they are and how to show them what others need. It is a nice quality to have as a mother and a teacher.