Friday, February 28, 2014

Year 4: Week 24 – The Kids at School Vs. The Kid at Home

My wife was reading about a teacher who was discussing the struggles of being a teacher and a parent. When this teacher first became a parent, she tried really hard to give her students as much attention and energy as she had before she became a parent. After struggling with this for years, she eventually came to the realization that she needed to prioritize her own children over her “kids” at school.

Teaching and parenting is a unique combination. Do I “parent” my students? No, but doing parental things is part of being a teacher, especially in America. It includes everything from helping students brush their teeth, which I've done in the past, to comforting a girl who just got dumped by their boyfriend. 

Before Ollie, I went home and I was done taking care of kids. True, I took care of my wife and Buffy, but they they didn’t require that intensity of attention as Ollie does.

I wasn’t sure how all of this would balance out when Ollie entered my life. I was lucky to have paternity leave that went straight into summer break when he was born so I had some time off before I had to work this balance.

We have this idea in our society that we should be able to do just as good a job at work when we are parents as we did before we were parents. In some ways this is a ridiculous idea that sets unreasonable expectations.  What is impossible is for a person to do the job the same way before and after having a baby.

I leave work earlier that I have in the past and I reuse more lesson plans than I have in previous years. Is my teaching suffering because of this? I would say no because the other factor that balances out is the way my work ethic has changed. I am more focused and work harder with the time I have at work now because I know if I goof around too much at work, it means there’s less time at home with Ollie.

You can’t do it all and that’s really hard to accept, but this reality isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I have this fear that one day after working late I will come home and Ollie will ask me why I was spending time with my kids at school and not with him at home.  In the mind of a young child, my job appears to be me being with other children and not my son. I don’t really know what to do with this or how to explain it but I do know that I don’t every want Ollie to think that my kids at school are more important than him.

I guess I could tell myself that teaching is just my job. That my care for my kids ends when I leave the school, that my emotional investment is at a minimum and I reserve that energy for my family. The reality is that one of the main reasons that I’m a teacher is because it’s more than a job. The greatest benefit I get from my relationship with my students isn’t the paycheck, it's the fact that teaching nurtures my soul. 

Sometimes I wonder how different parenting is when you don’t spend your workday with children. Are these people more excited to spend with their kids because kids don’t surround them all day? I don’t know, I think it’s different for each person and what I’ve found for myself is that the more time I spend with my kids at school and the more energy I spend on them, the more I want to give to Ollie, not out of guilt but because it feels right.

When you show love and care to others, your capacity to share these thing with others grow. It’s the superpower of our hearts. Love begets love. It’s exhausting and sometimes the spirit falters but there’s a look in the eyes and a memory of laughter that sustains us and re-energizes us as we care for the people in our lives.

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