When the job is parenting, cowards need not apply.
When you are a teacher at the school your child attends, and the parenting must simultaneously occur at your place of employment, you’d better learn to do some very political tap-dancing.
Been there. Bought the souvenir mug. Survived it- barely.
If you’ve never had to advocate for your child when you work in the same district where they attend, consider yourself fortunate. It’s rough– even moreso when you share a building.
So, to those of you who may happen to find yourself in the situation of teaching one of your colleague’s students, here are some words of advice:
1- If your colleague has high standards in their class and genuinely, obviously loves children, he or she is going to expect you to hold that standard as well. Fake it until you make it if the child is not all that loveable. Clearly the parent sent you the best they had to offer.
2- If you wouldn’t call, email, or text a parent outside the building, don’t drop by that colleague’s room for a chat. It’s unfair to everyone involved. (The parent shouldn’t do that to you either. This is a two-way street.) At the same time, if you WOULD contact, please DO contact. We are not perfect parents raising perfect children just because we are teachers, and we need to know when our babies step out of line.
3- Junior should not have a free pass to go have mom or dad sign a note, get money, or fix anything that would not be available to anyone else.
4- Don’t try to pull one over on your colleague. He or she is a teacher and understands things like grading, class management, good/bad days, paperwork avalanches, and dropped balls. Own your mistakes if you make them. You’re human. They’ll respect you more in the long run. If you don’t, you’re making a huge mistake. You most likely have the student for one year, but that colleague could be long-term. Is it really worth trying to save face?
5- Don’t hold the child to a higher standard than those for everyone else. It’s already hard enough to be the kid of a teacher in the building, just like it’s hard to be the son or daughter of a preacher. They don’t have an elevated set of morality or behavior rules. They are bound to make mistakes and holding them higher just to watch them fall farther and hear them splat louder certainly isn’t going to help anyone.
6. Bullying. The struggle is real. Sometimes junior wears a target because mom or dad enforces rules for people who are not fans of compliance. Watch for it. No child should have to suffer retaliation for his or her parent doing their job.
My child in question has received her tassel, cap, gown, and diploma. She recently started a new job and even has her own office! (#proudmom) She was a great person then, and she continues to be one now. However, there was more than one occasion during those trying times when I wished to nail this treatise to my door and shout it from the roof of the building.
Child number one may be grown and gone, but there is a second child, and I am bracing myself for the next run of this occasionally jarring roller coaster ride called parenting a teen through the glorious years of middle and high school. We have already had a wee bit of clattering on the school tracks as we sit in the same car, but I’m hoping once we enter the dips and spins, the ride becomes one we enjoy.