When my youngest son was in second grade, I was his teacher. This was my second year of teaching. There was only one second grade at the school, so he got lucky, I suppose. After all, who wouldn’t love to have their own mom as their teacher?
He was filled with many questions about what to call me and if I would still help him with his homework. He wanted to know if I would treat him just as I would all other students in my class. Once we sorted through all these important details, we agreed it would be an amazing year just as our first seven years together had been.
The school year was not without its interesting moments. Like the time when he held another student in a headlock hoping I wouldn’t see, or the day I saw him smiling from across the room at a certain young lady in the classroom. I watched him grappling with the urge to joke around when it was time for more serious discussion. I heard his wonder and curiosity in the many questions he asked. I also saw his compassion and thoughtfulness as he assisted others. Observing my own child, while serving in this capacity, provided me with a never ending supply of humor, insight, and much needed patience.
Towards the end of the school year, I asked all the children to write a book about a topic that was important and special to them. I provided very little direction as I wanted this to be an authentic effort, free from the typical teacher oversight and corrections. I felt confident that they had learned enough to spell, write, and successfully convey their important message. They were allowed to help each other if they chose to do so. Occasionally, a student would seek me out for assistance on spelling a particularly pesky word.
They were given a hardback, blank book and the appropriate materials in which to illustrate and write their story. The only guideline was to have it done and ready to share with the class the last week of school. There was no grading involved.
My son’s book was called, Two In One – My Mother is also my Teacher. As he read the opening page to his classmates, I wondered if this was a good idea. He read, “My mother is also my teacher.” “Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don’t.” Swallowing my pride, I allowed him to continue reading, hoping that the story would have a happy ending.
Turning a few pages he read…”the worst thing about having my mother as my teacher is when I get in trouble. “She seems to notice me more than others.” The illustration showed several empty desks except for his, where he sat smiling. He continued the story sharing his favorite subjects and activities ending the book with, “I really like having my mom as my teacher, but next year I want someone new.” With a huge smile of relief on my face, the class and I congratulated him for such an interesting story.
This year long adventure is now part of our family history, full of notable and humorous “remember when” stories. Admittedly, for both of us, it also required an extra dose of patience and respect. We found a way to make that happen even though it was not always easy. I often struggled with the dichotomy of being Two in One. Observing the actions of my child, I became very thankful for this struggle as it forever changed my perspective as both a mom and a teacher. From that point forward, I purposely tried to view my students’ strengths and challenges from a parent’s lens.
Before children enter formal schooling, parents help teach their children how to walk, talk, eat, dress, do chores, take turns, express ideas, and hundreds of other important tasks. They may even teach them to read, count and write. They know their strengths and challenges, their personality and behaviors. For the most part, they know what makes them tick.
When children arrive in our classrooms we rarely know them at all. We see them in only one setting and with only one lens, that of teacher. How much time do we spend talking with students and their parents before or at the beginning of the school year? What kind of communication exists during the school year besides report cards and the obligatory parent conference? Does a Friday folder suffice as a communication device?
As a teacher, talking with parents frequently gave me greater insight when working with and assessing my students. Parents are indispensable learning/teaching partners. Teachers who possess the lens of “parent” and work closely with parents seem more likely to better know and understand their students. They observe learning and behaviors differently by appreciating the uniqueness of every child/young person with whom they work, then plan their interactions and lessons accordingly.
Teachers who are Two in One by choice, nurture, guide, and encourage their students through a parent lens. Their students know they care and so do the parents. It is the school connection that matters most and the one that will yield lasting results.
As this adage aptly suggests…
For all the great teachers out there, thanks for being Two in One in your classrooms! It makes all the difference in the world. Kudos to all the home school moms and dads, you are two in one all the time!