Why Teaching and Parenting are Fundamentally the Same Job

Nine reasons you can never escape.

Reasons Teaching and Parenting Are the Same

Yeah, yeah, yeah, when you’re a teacher, you get to send the kids home at the end of the day. Sort of. But I’ve found that these similarities apply regardless of the ages of your children/students, regardless of where you teach, and regardless of how much experience you have.

1. You are expected to have omniscience regarding the location of small objects.

“Miss, did I leave my pencil in here three class periods ago?  It was yellow.”

“MOM! Where’s the peanut butter?”

“In the pantry!”

“WHERE in the pantry?”

Even if I know the answer, I don’t tell them, in the futile hope that someday they’ll just look for it themselves.  Hasn’t happened yet.

2. Throwing things away requires a level of strategy usually expected from top military personnel.

Now that the trees are changing color, my son comes home with pockets full of leaves that struck his fancy, which he brings as gifts.  My purse is so full of decomposed leaves, a badger could live in it, but woe betide me if I throw any of them away where he can see them.  I take them to school and throw them away there.

Meanwhile, my sub last week made my kids turn in a writing assignment that was supposed to stay in their binders and be used for a class discussion.  There is zero chance of these papers actually being graded, so I tuck them neatly into my grade book at the end of the day and bring them home to recycle.

3. A solitary trip to the bathroom is basically the equivalent of a tropical vacation.

Admittedly, my middle schoolers are substantially less likely to follow me to the bathroom and tell me stories through the door, or demand that I get them a snack mid-pee.  But it still requires major planning ahead to dash to the teacher bathroom between classes, hope it’s not occupied, and make it back before the next class arrives.

4. Half your life is spent answering the same question over and over and over.

“Can I have a snack?”

“Can I have a snack?”

“Can I have a snack?”

“What page are we on?”

“What page are we on?”

“What page are we on?”

5. There’s no such thing as a sick day.

Oh, sure, you can miss a day of school.  Hell, you can even burn a day of emergency lesson plans instead of writing sub plans at 4:00 am between bouts of vomiting.  But you will pay, my friend.  You will pay.  And as for your own kids, they spend every second they’re home asking, “Can I watch TV?”  But the minute you’re under the weather and give unlimited access to PBS, it turns into, “Let’s go outside and play soccer!”

6. You’re doing it wrong.

Luckily, there’s always somebody around to tell you how to do it right!  You feed your kid gluten?  WRONG!  You have your students work in assigned groups?  WRONG.  Let them choose their own groups?  WRONG.  That amazing lesson about cell parts?  Make it more standards-focused, with higher academic vocabulary.  Your kid spills an entire bottle of vegetable oil on the kitchen floor?  CHERISH these moments, dammit!  CHERISH!

7. Probably most of what you teach won’t stick anyway.

So if you’re doing it wrong, don’t worry!  Because they’re not listening anyway!  My kid STILL won’t take his dirty socks upstairs, and my seventh graders can’t tell a subordinating conjunction from a nuclear missile.  Both offspring and students basically see you as a time-wasting device that is substantially less fun than a cell phone, so it hardly matters what you teach them!

8. You find yourself saying things you never expected to say.

“We only lick things that are food!”

“You know what?  If you can build and program a robot to do that for you, then be my guest!”

“My immediate response to that question is probably illegal, so I’m going to take a minute before I answer it.”

Did I say these things to my five-year-old or to my seventh graders?  Who knows?  Could’ve been either!

9. You get your heart broken all the damn time, and it’s completely worth it.

You’re never able to do your job well enough, you can never offer either your own child or your students everything you’d like to, and you can’t protect them from the world no matter how urgently you wish you could.  So you do the best you can, and you sit back and watch in amazement as they prove, over and over, their compassion and resilience and forgiveness for your flaws.  You make mistakes, they make mistakes, and you keep bumbling along toward the end goal of decent, literate human beings.  The process stretches you and exhausts you and makes you a bigger person as you go.

Teaching and parenting have their differences.  Parenting involves a wider variety of bodily fluids.  Teaching gives you more opportunities to contract pinkeye or head lice.  But in the end, teachers and parents wish for the same thing; five damn minutes of peace and quiet before we have to read the same book for the thousandth time this week.

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Posted by Captain Awesome

Captain Awesome teaches seventh grade English at an urban charter school for refugee and immigrant kids. She is a big fan of books, social justice, holiday-flavored coffee creamers, righteous indignation, and Friday Night Lights.

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