A few weeks after my son was born in November 2015, I started thinking differently as a teacher. While I don’t think this applies to everyone, I feel like it did – and continues to – make me a better teacher. For the past two years I’ve shared lessons I’ve learned from him as a newborn, 1-year-old, and now in this, the “age of mobility.” Below is an updated list of those lessons:
1 – Make an assessment of life’s priorities. Now that a little boy is emerging from this toddler of mine, it’s amazing to see him prioritize things. For him, food is life. It takes up most of our life, too. This kid takes an hour to eat at just about every sitting. That said, I only spend about 2.5 hours awake each day with him, so that sit down meal is as important to me as it is both my son and my wife.
2 – Sacrifice for them. I am a busy teacher, citizen, and activist by nature. That was a gift (if not an expectation) that I received from my father, and I love to be involved. That said, I do my best to make it home everyday and, at the very least, read a book to my son, hug him, and hear him say “I wuv you.” It’s worth it every single time.
3 – It’s a shame teachers – and people for that matter – don’t get more PAID maternity and paternity time. I really wish that I could strike this one from my list, but with #2 expected in May, my wife and I are making plans for her to take off work (the 12 week maximum) and for me to take off a week during testing season. Compared to some Northern and Eastern European countries, as Business Insider reports, America’s maternity (and, more especially, paternity) leave looks austere if not draconian. How long until the lack of childbirth (and, in turn, declining population) in the United States become a national emergency?
America’s maternity (and, more especially, paternity) leave is austere if not draconian. Click To Tweet
4 – Learn to laugh at the mistakes; I fainted while my wife was giving birth. and become the master of redirection. I will never live down the fact that I had to be brought back to consciousness with smelling salts. That said, when my toddler falls (more often than you’d think; he just splashed his Fisher Price coupe down 2-stairs in our home), I’ve learned it’s not about babying him. It’s about redirecting his attention elsewhere. I’ll say “help me turn on the light” or, in worse cases, “Get Owy the Owl (a frozen block ice pad shaped like an owl).” Sometimes we just need to do that with our students.
5 – Worst experiences are subjective. See above!
6 – If you really want to make an impact, you need to be the best team. Period. In the newborn version of this article, I said you “need to know how to get down and dirty.” My wife aren’t the perfect team – we still get a bit upset about things here and there. But we’re the best damn team. And I’ve taught with some teachers who’ve constituted nothing short of the best damn team. There’s a reason people live in cultures surrounded by (and educating) others: it’s because we do better with village than we do on our own.
7 – Sometimes you know what’s best. When my son comes home from day care, if it’s a carbohydrate, it’s on his munchy list. “Peanuts?” No. “Cereal?” No. “Raise-nins?” No. Eat your vegetables, kid.
8 – Sometimes the child knows what’s best. I came home yesterday from work after a 12-hour day filled with meetings and conferences. I was sitting there on my phone, neglecting my family. And then, all of a sudden, here comes my son in his red Fisher Price coupe. “Smash,” he says, and I get his lawn mower and we chase one another around the kitchen and living room, smashing into one another. Pure joy.
9 – Know how to play all roles and wear all hats. It doesn’t matter what teachers or parents think, they’re going to have to do it all. I just didn’t expect to add psychologist to the list this early. Can’t wait for adolescence!
10 – Don’t lose sight of yourself those you love. We as teachers are all consumed with doing well, and that spills over into parenthood. But, we can’t forget about those who mean the most to us, notably our spouses, but also other family members. Sometimes it’s nice to just lay on the couch with my wife and watch Stranger Things.
11 – It’s amazing how many people are there to pitch in. I’ve learned that at home from our new neighbors, who each volunteer themselves to watch our kid more than we’d ever need, there’s plenty who are there to help. Additionally, with the substitute teacher shortage our schools now face, it’s amazing to see how many teachers are willing to step up and give their
12 – And how many just want good news in their lives. God, I thought it’d get better than last year, but it hasn’t. There’s nothing like the power of a positive phone call home to a parent to say, “Your child is awesome.”
13 – Everybody deserves a loving home. I hated being home and loved being at school. Look out into your classroom and ask yourself, which of these kids are “my kids.” The ones you have a bit more of a heart for. They probably feel the same about you.
14 – The most important classroom is your small one at home. Still no doubt about that.
15 – Everybody has advice, but the best that I’ve heard is do what you feel is right. There aren’t many larger arbiters of what’s “right” and “wrong” than teachers. That said, sometimes we learn to look the other way when it comes to our children or to our classroom. Sometimes a kid just needs you to be lenient and to let them live to see another, better day.
It brings me true joy to learn from my students throughout my 12 years, but it’ll bring me more joy to learn from my son – and whatever else our pregnancy may bring this upcoming Spring.
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