Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Views on Teaching (and education) Now That I'm a Mom

My how things can change when you have children! Not only does your life completely change- and everyone tells you that it will, but until you've had kids, you REALLY have NO IDEA.

So yes, I am a changed woman because of my delightful wee man, and I don't remember my life before him. It's like he's always been here, and yet I know he hasn't, and I still appreciate that he is.

What scares me more than anything is that I'll do wrong by him. I am afraid that I'll make mistakes that can't be changed, or undone, and that these mistakes will have a lifetime toll. It's a heavy burden to carry-- being a mom. You're responsible for so much and yet, there's nothing (besides your own instincts) telling you if you're doing something wrong or not.

So, it has led me to numerous thoughts and conversations with myself (like that?) about my views on education. You see, before Gus, I taught for ten years. I gave all that I had to my teaching and my students and their parents. I thought of them as an extension of myself, and truly adored them and enjoyed being around my students so much that I did many things outside of school with them. Steve came along with me to several baseball games (Comerica Park to see the Tigers and DBAP to see the Durham Bulls), countless movies, and even dinners. Before Gus, my students WERE my kids and I even called them "my kids." I never referred to them as "my students" it was always "my kids" and "my parents" when talking about the people that surrounded me daily.

I always thought that the things that I did as a teacher was the norm. Everyone writes newsletters. Everyone gives 100% of their time and effort to their classroom-- either by decorating it and making it come alive with color and exciting things, or by devoting an extraordinary amount of time to lessons. Not reusing the same ones each year, but coming up with new ones. Exciting ones. Fresh ones. I assumed that every teacher deeply cared for their students and their parents like I did. 

I was wrong.

I have learned (the hard way I guess) that I was the exception when it came to teaching. Now... I am NOT saying that there aren't good teachers. I'm also not saying that all the things that I did are required for being considered a great teacher... but I do know that my expectations for myself were higher than most, and the learning environment and experience of being in my 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade class... was a one-of-a-kind experience.

I can tell you a few things for certain:
1) When/if I go back to teaching... I will NEVER teach the same as I did before Gus. 

What do I mean by this? I mean, before becoming a mom... I never REALLY got it. Now... I know that each and every one of those children placed in my care... was someone's Gus. They were the apple of their parents eye, and their parents wanted nothing but the best for them. 

When I go back... I will be extraordinary. I will be EVEN better than I've ever been... because I'm a mom.

2) When/if I go back to teaching... I will NEVER teach the same as I did before Gus.

Wait... why am I saying this twice??? Well... because I mean it in two ways. I did things before, that I just did because I was "told" to do them and "expected" to do them. They didn't have any concrete meaning to me, and it was easy to just go with what I was told to do.

I have a whole new view on homework. Really... it SHOULD be for reinforcing skills taught in class. And, the children that need that extra boost should be the ONLY ones expected to do it. Otherwise, it becomes "busy" work and really does take away from time as a family. 

Also-- testing... BAH HUMBUG!! Why are we testing testing testing our kids??? It takes away from authentic learning!!! And why can't kids learn about things without the pressure of being perfect?? I get accountability... I really do. I also get using scores to see what needs to be taught more... but that's not what's happening in today's classrooms. It's a constant barrage of information being thrown at them, and then they're being tested to see if they remember it. There's no real-world application or time to really let it soak in, simmer, and question it. 

So this has led me down three thoughts. 
1) Homeschooling
2) Unschooling (I get it for preschool aged kids and maybe 1st and 2nd grade... but beyond that, I just don't see how I could do it)
3) Public school and watch out teachers

Yes, I could home-school Gus.I used to say, "I'll NEVER home-school my children." But that was before I had children. I will not say that I will NEVER do it. In fact, when Gus goes to Kindergarten... if he's got a teacher that isn't doing what I expect of her, he'll be pulled out of school and I WILL take over.

I've done enough reading and research to know that kindergarten and first grade are the two most CRITICAL years when it comes to forming a love or hatred for school. And being that Gus is a boy, he's at even more of a disadvantage when it comes to the ways that most teachers teach. So... if when he goes, if his teacher isn't "tuned into Gus" and teaches him like he's just a number, and not an individual... I WILL keep him home and teach him myself. 

2) Unschooling.
It's a fascinating concept. I'm all about exploring your world, seeing things for what they REALLY are and taking the time to really enjoy learning for the sake of learning. BUT... what scares me about it (for my own child), is that once he's old enough to enter the workforce, or even college... the world doesn't take time to explore what you love, and your boss isn't going to let you do whatever makes you happy. Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do, you have to work with people that you don't like... and I DO feel that school is the perfect place to learn these lessons early on.

I think a lot of what happens with unschooling, are the things that you'd do on a field trip. You go out and see the world, spend time having fun, and you're exploring. But then you come back to the school and continue learning. 

I'm so seriously torn. I get the concept... I REALLY do. I think it's awesome. I actually read about a place here in NC (and contacted them for more information) that does the unschooling but it's like a co-op of parents. It's for kids age 6-18 and the kids that attend, THRIVE. They enter the work force or college and are just as ready as those who are in traditional schools... but I don't know. It's not something I'm 100% comfortable with, and Steve is 0% comfortable.

So that leads me to my point of this whole post. When it comes time for Gus to attend school... his teachers better watch out. I'm not going to be "that mom" but maybe I am. I am going to expect a lot from them, because it's what I did and I think, "if I could do it... so can they." I better get newsletters, and there better be a reason for the homework assigned. If he gets assigned a packet... you can bet his teacher will be hearing from me about it.

All my angst about it... makes me just think maybe homeschooling isn't so bad. I definitely think there are advantages and disadvantages... so I don't know what we'll do when it's time. Thankfully we have four years before we have to worry about it. I AM going to be doing preschool stuff with him here... he will not be going to a preschool program. So it leads me to think, "if I am okay with doing preschool here at home, why not home-school?"

Let me close by saying that if we do choose to home-school... it would only be for elementary school. I think there's a lot to be gained from middle school and high school instruction that I can't give. I think the elementary years should be a time for exploring, having fun, and learning the fundamentals, but then I start to think about how hormonal kids are in middle school... and how hard it can be with bullying and all that and I go back to not knowing anything.

See... I said it at the very beginning... parenting is the hardest job ever. I don't want to make the wrong decisions and then regret things. I guess I'll face those bridges when I come to them... and thankfully, I'll have Steve by my side to help make the decisions.

I hear Gus in his crib... better go get him!!


Proud Mama said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Take a deep breath and relax, dear Cathy! You do play such a huge role in his life, but so does he. You will make mistakes, but you both will learn from them. It will be okay. Learn to never say never. Enjoy the now and know that as you and Gus get older and your life together evolves, you both may see things a little differently. Also try to not worry too far into the future. Gus will continue to amaze and delight you(and also drive you stark raving looney!). He will amaze you at his potential. He also may amaze and show you all that you just don't know. For now, just relax.

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