Having been married to an all-star educator for more than a decade, I see a lot of overlap in her teacher self versus her mom self.
My wife treats both her students and our children with the utmost compassion, is incredibly patient while teaching everything from beginner reading strategies to Shakespeare, and is able to command instant respect with a single paralyzing look.
But over the years I’ve noticed more than a few situations where she acts differently around a room full of middle schoolers vs. our son and daughter. Here are a few.
1. Parent Teacher conferences
I’ve heard about some of my wife’s parent teacher conferences and they sound pretty epic. Kids who have lied to their parents (“What do you mean David didn’t come to school yesterday? He told me he did!”), parents who underestimate their kids grades, and everything in between. Teachers in these situations know that they are in the right, but sometimes it’s hard to convince parents their kids might not be the little angels (or little geniuses) they think they are.
But as parents, we want to believe our kids are always the upstanding model citizens we want them to be. It’s easy to go into a conference on the parent side of the table and be judgmental to the teacher when she gives your own kid a less than stellar progress report (“What do you mean he isn’t doing his homework? He told us he did!”). This is where having a teacher in the family undoubtedly helps our family gain perspective, balance both sides of the equation, and understand what’s really going on.
Tuesday: 2:30pm. Middle school classroom.
Teacher: “Remember to read Act 2 of The Tempest, complete tonight’s worksheet, and finish the rough draft of your high school admissions essays for me to review tomorrow.”
Tuesday: 5:00pm. Kitchen counter.
Same teacher/mom (as she frantically stirs vegetable spaghetti and rocks a crying baby while her son sits next to a pile of math worksheets and a ring of sight words: “Ugh.” (Says nothing, rolls eyes, flips to the next worksheet).
3. Screen time
As a parent: “We need to limit screen time to no more than two 30-minute sessions per day, with at least one being strictly educational, and no video games except on weekends when all your homework is done.
As a teacher: “Guess what kids!? It’s movie day!!!”
4. Wardrobe selection
“I need to make sure I dress professionally every day. It helps convey authority and allows me to be an excellent representative of our school. Plus, it’s important to set a good example for the kids, and demonstrate an appropriate wardrobe for when they enter the working world.”
Our son: “Mommy are you going to wear your jammies all day?”
My teacher wife: “Yeah but they’re my GOOD jammies.”
5. Outside Activities
With our kids: “Turn off the tv and let’s go play outside! We can go for a hike to look for animals, ride bikes, or sit in the grass and blow bubbles!”
With students: “Ugh. I have recess duty today. It’s hot outside, I need to plan for a test I’m giving tomorrow, and I just don’t think I have it in me to referee another kickball game.”
6. The last day of school
The last day of school as a teacher:
“Hallelujah! No more curriculum planning! Or test prep! No more faculty meetings, parent phone calls or uniform checks until the end of time! (or at least until August)”
The last day of school as a parent:
“Wait, you mean I still have to come up with something to occupy juvenile minds every day? Like Sunday through Saturday? Without a day off? Or a planning period? AND I have to make them dinner? Can I go back to work just a few days to relax?”
7. Meal time
Being a teacher a lunchtime means pacing around the cafeteria/gymnasium, breaking up food fights, and supervising silent lunch while balancing a plate of day-old enchiladas on top of a Diet Coke while trying not to spill salsa on your one good pair of dress shoes.
Being a parent at dinner involves pacing around the kitchen table while soothing a calming baby while eating 2-hour hour old casserole and trying not to spill tomato sauce on your overly-excited dog.
Come to think of it, some things may not be so different.