Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Being A Father Has Changed Me As A Teacher

I have two children, ages 11 and (almost) 9. My 11 year old girl is heading into middle school in a couple of weeks. My son is 9 and entering the 4th grade. I can honestly say that I am not the same person before these two came along. The additional grey hairs are a testament to that. Besides, the physical differences, I believe my two children have made me a better teacher. Many thanks to @plugusin for inspiration.

When my kids started coming home with homework, I was hit with the first eye opener: we will complete every assignment that comes home, but please do not make it busywork. I do not want to spend a couple of hours battling with my children to complete an assignment that I notice NEVER gets graded or even marked as checked. Even the month long Social Studies project my child had to do one time that had no connection to what they were covering at the time!


As a Teacher, I have always been very conscious of giving my students busy work. I have never liked it, especially as a student myself. I constantly tell my students, "If you take the time to complete it, I will take the time to grade/mark it." I believe that creates the atmosphere that everything they do has a purpose. Most importantly, we do not waste time.

Speaking of grading, as a parent I find myself asking my kids about certain marks on their report cards that I use to not pay attention to as a teacher BC (before children!). I asking them why their participation in a class is just a check instead of a check plus. I ask them why didn't they get an Outstanding instead of the Satisfactory grade on the report card? Lastly, if they bring home a grade that was lower than we expected, I want to see comments to clarify the lower grade.


As a BC teacher, I was guilty of putting in the obligatory Satisfactory grade in behavior or organization for the entire class, knowing not everyone was really on the same level. Now, I spend probably way too much time providing comments for parents either on the report card or through email. However, I honestly believe the parents want to know as much information about the progress of their child as possible. It is my job to give that information.

The biggest realization for me as a parent was that I am not going to win every battle. Somedays, there are just too many of them. Before kids, I would mentally criticize parents for letting their kids get away with certain things. It did not take me long to after having both of mine that somedays you need to do this out of survival skills. If you do not let them win, someone may blow a gasket!


I have taken this slogan to heart in my classroom since having my kids. I now handle interactions with students very differently. Before children, I was determined that the student was not going to win. I had to "win" every disagreement or discussion. Period. It took the addition of my own children to realize how bad this strategy actually is.

Now, I am able to address students with the a lot more patience. Do not get me wrong, our classroom is a well-run environment. Nowadays, I believe it runs this way because of the mutual respect in the classroom between myself and my students than their fear of getting yelled at. I talk to them constantly about trust. I can handle a lot of things: forgotten homework, accidentally breaking materials, even an occasional foul word muttered out of frustration. However, do not break my trust. This is nonnegotiable! I tell my students that if this happens, I will still help work with you when you have questions, but I will not trust you. So, if you want to leave the room, you will be escorted by a responsible student. Trust can be repaired, but it takes a while. My students (and children) are aware this.

I am a very different teacher now that I have children, and I believe my students are better for it!


Bill Ferriter said...

Hey Jim,

First, I love the "BC" reference! I definitely see a difference in my before and after children interactions in the classroom, that's for sure.

I think your point about being more patient than ever is an important one -- and one that I don't think I could have ever imagined BC. Instead, I was intolerant -- both of kids who said they couldn't get their work done and parents who raised kids who didn't get their work done.

As a parent now, I know the reasons -- for misbehavior, for missing work, for actions that seem so out of place or inappropriate -- are FAR more nuanced and complex than I could have ever imagined.

People get miffed when I tell them that teachers without children can't REALLY understand what it means to be a parent, but I'll stand by the claim.

Thanks for sharing this. Really enjoyed reading it.


Jim Cordery said...

Thanks, Bill.
I am much more understanding about family situations than I use to be. Now, I tell parents not to argue or fight over the hw. We will get it done after I help them more.
Thanks for taking the time to read it.
I appreciate it.