I vividly remember as a graduate teacher the first time a student, instead of addressing me by my usual title, accidentally called out to me with an elongated, “Mu-um!”. This was met with an eruption of laughter from his classmates and I remember being absolutely mortified that a 13 year old saw me, a 24 years young lady, as a motherly figure. Three years later I did become a mum and although you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that there would be similarities in being a teacher and parent, I constantly see strong and sometimes amusing connections between the two. Keep in mind that while I now have two little boys, parenting two seems exponentially more difficult than teaching a class of twenty teenagers at times. But I digress. I’m sure there are infinitely more reasons than the following, but these are the five which I think top my list of why teaching and parenting go hand in hand.
1. You are at the beck and call of your kids all day
Obviously your own children require supervision almost every minute of the day (and night at times), especially when they are babies and toddlers. Your day is filled with feeding, dressing, bathing,changing nappies, playing, soothing and so forth. (“What do you do all day at home?”, a friend asked me recently. What do I do??? Trust me, that response requires a whole other blog).
Is teaching really that demanding? Honestly, very. From the moment you set foot onto the school grounds to the time that you get into your car to go home (not forgetting after-school activities or camps), you are sharing the responsibility of the welfare of hundreds of children. And for the students whom you teach and are a tutor teacher for, there is even more onus on you to monitor them. You may not need to do the basics as outlined above but you only have to be in a class of twenty Year 7s repeating the same inane questions like, “Do I need to draw a margin?” or “Should I write this down?” to realise how much they rely on you for every little decision. (A side-note to primary school teachers, for whom I presume it is a hundred times worse, I don’t know how you do it!).
And for those who think we teachers can leave our responsibilities at the end of the day, I reply, in part that is correct but not always. I was reading a student’s English journal entry one Friday night and in it he had confided that he was being bullied and sometimes wanted to harm himself. I made some calls and finally got onto the Deputy Principal who said we couldn’t really do anything. I chewed my nails all weekend and practically hugged that kid come Monday morning when he walked into class safe and sound. Which brings me to my next point.
2. You never really switch off
Parents can never really switch off. You can to a degree but even if you have a night off and are sipping a really good red and having an in-depth chat with your best friends, you’re still checking your mobile for missed calls or texting “Did they go to sleep ok?” to the grandparents. You can never be sick because you don’t get sick days, unless you’re as fortunate as me to have two lovely sets of parents who live close by. You really are on call 24/7 when you have children. And, even when they do sleep all night, you still wake at 4 am sometimes and go and check that their blankets are on and they’re still breathing. I expect I’ll stop worrying about them when they’re thirty…
Teachers rarely switch off either. At 4 am when you can’t sleep you come up with a rhyme for your Year 12 Japanese students to remember their grammar patterns. Or when you’re watching Wall E with your hubby, you’re thinking about how in a few years this will make a great movie to study for Social Values in Media Units Three and Four. You’re worrying about that student who doesn’t seem to eat much for lunch or the one who hasn’t shown up to class recently and is risking failing your subject. Like your own kids, you are always looking out for them.
3. You would do anything for your kids
It goes without saying we’d do anything for our own kids. I always nudged my hubby when I thought I heard strange noises at night and make him go and check it out. Now I’m in full lioness mode and ready to attack for my little men. I’m sure most mothers feel the same.
As for teachers, we want nothing more than our students to do their best and pass (hopefully those two things go hand in hand as it’s heartbreaking for those who try hard and it’s not reflected in their marks). We also want them to be healthy and happy. I have been mortified by some of the things I have overheard students say and am so worried about students these days and their personal safety, particularly when it comes to their bodies and sex. As teachers we can only be the best role model possible and encourage them to be safe when it comes to activities that fall outside school time. Speaking of outside of school time, we come to the subject of holidays.
4. Holidays aren’t really holidays
Have you ever been on a holiday with a three year old and a one year old? I’m not sure if it can even be called a holiday. Even when you are in a relaxing place you are constantly on the look out for dangers and making sure both little people are within eyesight or reach. A quick trip in the car requires a bag with nappies, wipes, nappy mat, a spare change of clothes, drink bottles and possibly snacks and a couple of toy cars. Now imagine going on a week-long holiday interstate – madness! Sleep times aren’t always at the right times and children get overtired easily in new places, especially if the weather is warmer. I won’t even mention sleep at night because you’re lucky if you get any. Crazy. Of course parts of the holiday are lovely at times but they’re not how they once were.
Likewise for teachers, holidays are not necessarily so, despite their apparent abundance. When people mention teachers and the amount of holidays they get, there is always a heated debate but I’m telling you right now, holidays require planning and corrections in one way or another. I once went overseas for the whole of the school summer holidays and there was an enormous amount of work to be done before I left so that I was duly prepared for the start of the school year when I returned. Teachers use their holidays and deserve whatever is left for relaxation and therapy for the inability to switch off (as outlined above). Despite all the hard work involved in both parenting and teaching, it is obvious that the positives of these jobs balance out the difficulties.
5. It is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs to be had.
I miss my kids from school. I miss the kids who have graduated, I miss the ones who are still there but I would miss my own kids too much if I was working at the moment. I want to watch my little men grow up and see them learn new things. It’s amazing and absolutely rewarding teaching teenagers and watching them grow up into lovely young adults. It is wonderful to be part of teaching them to learn subjects that I love and hopefully helping them to enjoy it too.
But it is also amazing watching my little men (who obviously learn infinitely more things more quickly in their first few years of life) grow up and take on their own beautiful personalities. I’m looking forward to going back to teaching in the near future and also looking forward to every day with my little men. One of the women in my mothers group, who is a successful businesswoman for a well-known large company, commented that while motherhood was one of the most challenging things she had ever done it was also the most rewarding thing she had ever done. I believe this to be true for both teaching and parenting. We are so lucky to be a part of bringing up the next generation. We have the best jobs in the world!