A Moment with Dr. Moore

August 24, 2022

Doing Double Duty as a Parent-Teacher

Over half of teachers are parents. I count myself among them. As a dad of two daughters, I’ve asked myself the question that many teachers pose: How does being a professional in education affect you as a parent? There is a relation between the two roles, and it’s not what I expected when I first became a father. By that time, I was getting a master’s degree in education and had already written a resource for teachers of young children. But when I had my first child, I wished I could go back and rewrite it. Having a child deepened my knowledge of children and gave me a different view of things I had written in my own book.

Becoming a parent has a way of changing what you do as a teacher. Having my own kids made me more aware that I was molding other human beings. And the real-life experience I gained made me feel like more of an expert than I did while I was getting a lot of fancy degrees and writing a book. So, becoming a parent influenced my practice as a teacher instead of the other way around.

And other teachers agree that parenting does make an impact on your practice as a teacher. It’s a “delicate dance” between the two, according to Kaitlin Tucker, a teacher, author and mom in Sonoma County, California. “When I first began teaching at 22,” she explained, “my mentor teacher told me ‘Teaching will make you a better parent and being a parent will make you a better teacher.’ The wisdom of these words has stayed with me.”

And becoming a parent does broaden your outlook as a teacher, no matter how seasoned you are in the field, a teacher named Fiona ruefully recalled. “I was a teacher for 13 years before I became a parent, and I have to admit I was pretty judgmental about moms and parenting at the time. For example, when a student told me they didn’t like their lunch and sadly pushed it away, I would mutter, ‘Why would your mother pack a lunch that she knows you don’t like?’ not realizing that child probably loved that lunch a second ago and the poor mom had 75,000 other things to worry about that day.”

Teachers who are parents can understand the challenges moms and dads face, Fiona went on to point out. “All the oh-so helpful tips of advice you dished out to parents before you became a mom will come back to haunt you. You’ll sit on the other side of the desk and have to listen to completely unworkable suggestions from someone who gets a full night’s sleep, can complete a sentence without interruption and doesn’t live with a mini tyrant. You just smile sweetly, as you think, ‘Yeah lady. Sure. That’ll totally work.’”

As a teacher, you may know all the theories of how people develop, but it can’t replace real-life experience with children. That’s why earning a Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™ requires you to take both courses and put in a hefty number of hours in a child care setting. So, teachers who’ve earn a CDA® are better prepared than most for the real-world challenge of working with children. They’re a step ahead of many folks in their field when taking that first step into the classroom. Still, having a child is a leap that can lead you to new heights in serving families and young learners.

You can relate to parents and connect with them better. You understand why they want to know what’s happening in the classroom and why they’re so “anxious” about their child, said a teacher named Amanda. “After having kids, I raised my communication through emails and phone calls. I wrote short blog posts about what the children were doing,” she said. “It took more time, but countless parents told me they valued these recaps of their child’s day.”

And being a mom didn’t just improve Amanda’s communication with the parents. “Having kids also helped me listen more carefully to my students,” she explained. “Previously, there were times when I had other things on my mind and didn’t fully hear a student. After having a kid of my own, there was still a lot on my mind, but I also became more attuned to listening to the needs of young children. I realized that this was a tiny human with fears and dreams just like my child. And each one of them deserved to be heard,” Amanda said.

And other teachers have given added reasons why having children made them better at their job. They’ve mentioned their skill at managing time to make sure they took care of everyone in the household. They’ve talked about how the stresses of raising children have taught them to roll with the punches. And they’ve learned to respond calmly to crises in the classroom since their own kids were always getting into scrapes.

Of course, all this knowledge is hard won. It’s demanding to be a parent-teacher who spends their whole day doing double duty for small people. Parenting is a job that requires us to devote almost all our energy and hours to the care of someone else. It’s the same for teaching. So, we find ourselves constantly giving. Yet we keep questioning whether we’re doing enough. And being a dad made me see just how complex it is to help children grow and advance, whether you’re a parent or a teacher. There is no manual you can read to prepare you to shepherd another human being into the world and guide them to success. Still, if you give freely of your talents and time, if you’re patient and persistent—there’s a good chance that will totally work.


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