By Tracy, Managing Editor
Sometimes I feel like I’m teetering on the ledge of a fence, trying to not fall towards one side too much. I’m a parent with a daughter who goes to school (yes we call it school, though she’s not yet 2). And I’m a teacher who is a caregiver, if you will, to children who have parents who rely on me to foster learning as well as a safe and caring environment for their offspring. It’s a strange perspective to have.
As a teacher, since I’ve become a mom, I look at my students differently, and I think that this viewpoint helps me to be a better teacher. For example, the other day when I told a 13 year-old, who is in my reading intervention class, that her reading level was that of a third grader and she started crying, my mom genes kicked in and I tried my darndest to meet her halfway in a book choice, in hopes of building her confidence. And of course all weekend I worried about what this news did to her. (As a teacher I know it is very important for kids to understand where they are in order to set goals for improvement…though my heart was breaking for her.)
As a parent, I expect the same kind of treatment of being caring and understanding for my daughter. I expect that she is also provided with a constant safe environment to be in during those many hours she is away from me. And I also try to remember that we are all human beings, even as adults, and mistakes will be made. I try my best to have understanding for this too when things are fouled up for my daughter…within reason of course.
When I was a brand new student teacher, maneuvering through my semester where all I did was teach, I made mistakes. Many mistakes. I had to figure out not only how to plan and implement curriculum, but I also had to figure out how to communicate with adolescents. One day I made a mistake in how I corrected a student. I didn’t realize I made the mistake, and my mentor teacher didn’t think it was that big of a deal, either. But then the phone call came in from a parent…to meet with me and the vice principal. During this meeting, I was scolded by the parent. I was talked down to. I nodded and it took all the strength that I had to not cry in front of this parent. I refused to let her know she was beating me down. (I was later told that this parent treated and talked to just about everyone at the school the way she communicated to me…though it provided no solace to how low I was feeling.) And of course, I cried hysterically in the bathroom once the meeting was over.
At that moment, I knew that when I became a parent, I would never treat my child’s teacher that way. There is a way to communicate that provides for a respectable relationship between parent and caregiver. Scolding the one who is charged with your child’s care is not going to bode well in the long run. It’s hard to not look at that kid, wondering how what you say to them would be taken and what the parent might come back to you with, causing you walk on egg shells as to not rock the boat. Then you cease to be yourself and are held back because you are always worried about what the parent might do or say again. I never want to subject any of my daughter’s teachers to that same fear I was subjected to as a newbie teacher, trying to figure out this whole profession.
So over the course of Abby being in daycare, at first I was understanding about minor issues, calmly accepting that we are all human beings. With a smile on my face I let them know things that were overlooked or if I wanted them to pay a little closer attention to certain things, and went on my way.
But then I spoke up with more force when major oversights occurred, all the while worrying. Worrying about hurting someone else’s feelings because I remember how it felt to be scolded as a novice teacher. So I took a step back and made sure that in talking to the childcare providers, to focus more on my feelings as a parent, letting them know how I feel let down . And I even teared up as I stated these words to a district supervisor, “I don’t feel safe sending my daughter to your facility.”
This all still makes me feel uneasy, because that teacher part of me knows how crappy it feels knowing that you let someone else’s child down. And that teacher part of me also knows how crappy it feels when you think you are doing your best, but you aren’t living up to the standards parents set forth for their child’s care. And then I think about the non-negotiables when it comes to the care of your child and know that is of the utmost importance.
I feel like I’m treading in murky water, not able to see which direction to go in. It’s all new to me, being on the parent side. And all I know is that I have to trust my gut and make no apologies for how I feel. But I also have to make sure that I treat people with the respect that they deserve. It’s hard being on that fence, balancing along that thin line.