Monday, September 26, 2016

How Being a Parent Changed My Perspective on the Classroom

I am a teacher and I have been one my whole life; I used to set up a "classroom" for my four younger sisters and teach them whether they were interested or not. Over the years I would share all about my favourite topic–body systems–on family trips and around the kitchen table. Learning was fun and I wanted others to embrace it alongside me. After graduating from university with an actual teaching degree, I got started right away. I thought I knew how to teach kids and I did–to some extent. I knew how to present the material, answer questions, and connect with the students. However, coming from a family of five girls in which not one of us struggled academically and all thrived in a traditional school atmosphere, I don't think I had a true picture of what the variety of classroom struggles might be beyond social issues that most teenagers deal with. My academic goals had to been to work hard, get good grades, get a degree, and finally, get a solid job. And that is...good. But, what are we really working towards? What is the reality of the students in the classroom today?

 Now that I'm a mom of four, I have a greater understanding of the kids sitting in those desks when I work as a substitute teacher. Not only are these children someone's most precious gifts, they come with such a variety of backgrounds, needs, abilities, circumstances and desires. There will be the gifted child, the one with learning disabilities, the one that suffered trauma, the one that has a difficult home life, the one that is a people pleaser, the one that has social struggles, the one that uses every last ounce of energy throughout the day trying to keep it together...there is just so much going on. A university education is not the goal for everyone and there are many other options.

What really matters in the classroom? What do we want for our kids when they go to school? For our  own kids I used to say that they were going to university as that is how I grew up and what I knew; a degree meant financial and job stability and all five of us sisters went and thrived there (okay, maybe not thrived–Calculus is hard, but we did well). Now I want school to be a safe place where they are known and where they can learn with supports in place if need be.  I want them to be lovingly challenged in their hearts and minds just as they are at home. I hope that they will blossom into who they are meant to be; that they will find their passions and interests and from that find a career path that will work well for them. That they will be known for their hearts. That they will know that they are important and they can make a difference.  This doesn't mean I don't want them to work hard, I do, but the goal has changed for me.

There are many more career options available these days. Working as a photographer was not a job that I studied for at university but it allowed me to help provide for our family. It probably helped that I did have my degree as a safety net in case other ventures didn't work out as I would have been to afraid to try otherwise. There are diplomas and trades and certificates and hopefully options will be presented to every child going through school. If my kids are going to spend half (or more) of their lives working, I sure want them to love what they are doing. Skills like asking questions, knowing who they are, and working hard will take them far–it's unusual to stay in the same job for 30 years so they're going to need to know how to accept change and opportunities.

Life is a hard teacher but it has molded me into who I am today–someone with an understanding of the variety of needs and abilities in the classroom. We only have so much control over what happens in our lives and what our families then need to embrace as part of our new reality. Sometimes I just want to say "I quit. I don't want to learn this lesson. I need a break."  However, I know that through all experiences, whether exhilarating or exhausting, it is turning me into the teacher I'm meant to be– the teacher in the classroom but more importantly, the one in my home.


1 comment:

  1. Love this! Everyone learns so differently, not everyone will go to university, nor do they have to. If you're doing something you love, it doesn't matter how you got there!