Friday, September 1, 2017

Parenting Milestones

After 15 years of working in public elementary schools I finally achieved a new first.

I became a parent of a child in a public elementary school. My oldest started kindergarten this week. Now, she's been in daycare and preschool since she was 3 months old, so I was not expecting this to be anything different. On Friday she went to her full day preschool class, and on Monday she went to elementary school. She actually had a longer day at preschool, so in reality, this isn't that big a shift - right?

And yet - there is something very different about this experience. To put it in her words "Kindergarten is a big deal."

Frankly, I was surprised by myself. I'm a low key person, and have always been a fairly low-key parent. When I got a call from her in-home daycare provider letting me know that another child had bitten my two year old, my first reaction was "What did she do that made the other kid so angry?" My other daughter fell on the preschool playground last fall, busted her chin open, and didn't cry about it, so the preschool didn't think she was hurt. Turns out she needed stitches. I didn't get upset. I get it. Recess is tough. It's hard to keep up with kids. My kids are fine. I don't blame the teachers.

So who is this crazy, judgy kindergarten mom looking back at me in the mirror? I don't even know this woman who is inwardly grumbling about the class organizational system, the homework system, the way the class lines up, and the way they handle birthdays?  I don't know her, and I'd like her to go away.

We are so lucky. My daughter's kindergarten teacher is wonderful. The school follows the Responsive Classroom approach school-wide, and everything is early-childhood focused. There are toys in the room for choice time. This is a place where childhood is honored. All of those things are rare. And yet I am still catch myself being overly critical.

I think that perhaps I am secretly jealous of this young teacher and her adorable kindergarten class. Secretly I want to be setting up a kindergarten classroom, welcoming the children to their elementary school career, teaching those beginning of the year routine lessons, and building relationships with the class. I loved teaching in the beginning of the school year.

I'm like the disgruntled teenager who is so critical of the head cheerleader because secretly she wishes she had tried out for the squad, but didn't because it wasn't cool. I mean, I could totally have my own kindergarten classroom if I wanted to, I just don't want it really. I just want to think about wanting it.

Plus, I know too much. For every "criticism" I have, I can site a blog post, article, book, or research on why I'm right. But there are probably other blogs, articles, books, and research out there that argue the other way. And none of these things actually matter. It's like judging the cheerleader's red nail polish. Didn't she read that red was out this year? Come on!

I am so not this person.

So my goal is to find a balance. To not be so laid back that I don't get upset that no one thought that the blood gushing out of my daughter's chin was a problem. But not so uptight and critical that I'm labeled "that mom". (I totally already am. I know I've been red flagged already. So I'll just be that mom and not THAT mom.)

I'm going to make sure I'm there and present, but also that I accept that we are all different teachers and there is no one right way to teach.

Being critical is exhausting, and I don't have time to be tired over this!

My daughter LOVES kindergarten. Last night she said she was so lucky to have her teacher, and I agreed. Because I do. I know my daughter is in the right place for her.

Any other TeacherMoms out there who find the same surprising judgmental thoughts pop up?
I've always asked why do we judge one another so much in this profession, and this is an extension of that teacher-on-teacher judgement. Where does this come from?


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, yes! I taught first grade for a long time, so when my daughter hit first grade I definitely found myself going there. And like you, I KNOW that my daughter's teachers are wonderful. At this point, though, I have decided that the less I know about her classroom, the happier we all are!

Jenny said...

Oh man. My oldest started high school this year so we've been at this for ten years and lots of teachers between the two of them. I've adored and so respected many of their teachers and quite disliked a few. (Once we hit middle school the number of teachers skyrocketed, meaning the chances of disliking some got greater.)

Some of my dislike has been completely reasonable - a teacher who, at Back to School Night, said they really didn't understand the math curriculum they were using, a teacher who did not have any time for independent reading during the week, a teacher who made my child feel like she couldn't ask for help when she was confused.

I think I was really lucky. My kids started out at the think tank with me. They had the best teachers. By the time we got to some tough ones I was a lot more laid back about it. I hadn't realized, until reading this, how much of a difference that made for me.

(I've not been helpful here at all for your dilemma. Sorry. But you'll be fine. You won't be 'that mom' because you're far too good about caring for others for that to be true.

Anonymous said...

Teaching for so many years you know there will always be a new group of kids to come along, so you can hone your practices and improve little by little. As a new Kindergarten parent, the whistle has blown and it's now game time. You only get one chance to get it "right" because your kid will keep growing and there's no do-overs.