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Monday, February 19, 2007

Teaching vs. Parenting

A while ago, someone asked me my views on teaching vs. parenting.
I'd be interested in your ideas about teaching and parenting, and (if this makes sense) the connections or lack thereof between the two. Are there "tricks" you know as a teacher that work in parenting? Has being a parent altered the way you teach?
I will say that in many ways they are connected, albeit on a different scale and to different degrees. Most of the differences are due to the number of children. You do need to be able to multi-task MUCH more as a teacher, when there are 19 children needing your help at what seems to be all the same time. Also, the depth of what you can do with 1 to 3 children is much different than what you can do with 15-20. Therefore I try to break my instruction up into different groupings as much as possible. Sometimes we're a whole class discussing a story, sometimes we're working in small groups for learning centers, and sometimes I'm working one on one with a child. Flexibility is a huge key...you can't be a teacher and not be flexible!

As for similarities, I find that in both teaching and parenting, consistency and fairness are the key. The child(ren) need to know that you mean what you say, and are willing to enforce it to whatever degree needed. They need to know that there are no hidden surprises waiting to trip them up. When they know what to expect, and what you expect, it makes life much easier for all concerned.

Being a parent has and has not affected how I teach. Specifically, I haven't really changed my teaching techniques, but I have changed how I relate to the parents, especially at conference time. Being a mom has helped me to realize that each parent that sits across from me loves their child and only wants the best for him/her. They also think or hope that what they've been doing up to this point has been the best for that child. So I'm a little more compassionate in how I try to discuss unpleasant behaviors, and much more conscientious in reporting the good things I see in their child as well.

This has gotten pretty long, so I'll save the "tricks" I use as a teacher and parent for tomorrow.

2 comments:

Stidmama said...

I am enjoying this essay, feather.

Mulling over my response, but thought I'd start by encouraging you to be honest even as you are tactful with parents. If a child really isn't ready for kindergarten or first grade, encourage the parents to give them more time... too many parents don't understand the correlation between readiness and age. Or, rather, the non-correlation... not all 5 year olds are ready for kindergarten, not all kids are ready for first grade after a single year in kindergarten. As you know.

My experience as parent and student has been mixed, watching my brother struggle through school because he moved on in grades when he wasn't ready and never completely recover though he was held back later; watching one of my children bloom when I held him back in an early elementary grade in order to mature a little more. Feeling bored and unmotivated because I was in the proper grade for my age but ready for more... watching one of my children when he was moved ahead a little quicker struggle with material that he was academically ready for but not mature enough for the type of work.

As a younger parent (as most kindergarten parents are, no doubt) I would have benefited from some honest communications concerning the children's abilities, needs and potential. That I had to figure it out on my own made it somewhat frustrating...

I'll figure out more what I want to say later.

featherbee said...

I agree with what you say 100%. I have one student right now who is not going to be ready for first grade. This kiddo turned 5 in November, and would have really benefited from an early kindergarten program, which I dearly wish we had in our district. He's just not ready socially or academically. Sometimes it feels like I'm just a place holder for these kids, but then I remember that sometimes the ones who are this young AND are struggling academically have had no prior school experience, so I'm giving them that at least. I have had young kids before who have done fine, you'd never know they weren't the same age as the others. Often this is the result of some kind of preschool or early kindergarten experience. I'd love to see every 4 year old in some kind of early school experience...not so much for the learning as the socializing and being "ready" to learn.

As for being honest with the parents, I do try my best to be up front with them concerning their child. I don't want them to end up saying to next year's teacher "But his kindergarten teacher said he was fine, and you're saying he's not!" I do find quite often that the parents know their children, and have an idea of what the areas that need to be worked on are. Sometimes they don't realize however that the level their child is at is not age/developmentally-appropriate, and it's my job to gently point that out.

Ok, I need to go work on part 2 of this post!