Friday, January 22, 2016

Teacher/Momma Soapbox

It's very interesting being a teacher AND a mom. I see both sides. I know what teachers expect. I know what bugs teachers. I know their pet peeves. YET, I know my imperfect children and that I love them more than anything in this world and want them to succeed. I often have these views about education and parenting that have teacher and parenting beliefs intertwined. I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts with you.

1. It's ok if your kid isn't GT. I've had so many parents come to me so very disappointed that their child didn't qualify for the gifted and talented program. I believe that there are some kids that truly ARE GT that didn't qualify. Just because they couldn't pass a weird test and it doesn't say on their cum folder that they are GT doesn't mean that I'm not going to treat them as a GT kid. 

Now, here is the other side of that. I had a mother upset that her daughter didn't qualify for GT. I had a conference with the mom and said this:
"You're daughter is very driven and goal oriented. In the grand scheme of life that is going to benefit her way more than having a GT label. "

Being GT isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sure they are incredibly smart and gifted. But they also struggle in the public school setting because they think on a totally different wave length and might even be considered "weird" to classmates or teachers. GT kids are hard to tap into. If your kid isn't GT, I am going to try to teach them to be organized and goal oriented and driven.
GT kids are so awesome and interesting. But your not GT kid is just as praise worthy and successful. 

2. I'm going to tell all kids they are smart...even if they aren't. There is big research going around saying to stop telling kids they are smart. "Oh it might make them feel entitled. It might build up a superiority complex. We just need to tell them they worked hard." Well I can guarantee you that they will quit working hard if they feel like they aren't smart and they aren't getting the "expected results." 

And I really DO believe they are all different ways. I have kids who are quick with numbers and some who can read ANYTHING. Some who just have good common sense, background knowledge and vocabulary. Some who are amazing artists with an observant eye. Some who can memorize anything. Some who are athletic. Some who know everything there is to know about dinosaurs. And some who are tender and can sense people's emotions better than I do.

There is a way to let kids know that they are smart but that everyone else around them is also. I always tell my kids and students, "No one is better than you and you are not better than anyone else." Almost everyday I ask my kids, "Who is the most important person in the classroom?" They cheer "The person next to you!"

3. Teachers kids are just kids too. There is this unspoken expectation that if you are a teachers kid you should be making straight A's and be perfectly behaved. And some (not my kid's teachers) teachers can be very judgemental. My son goes to a different school than where I teach. If they knew his momma was a teacher they'd probably be shocked. He struggles for sure. He knows it and I know it. We constantly are working on the things he struggles with. My daughter does well academically but can have a cruddy attitude sometimes. I know it. My kids aren't spoiled. I spank them. I talk to them about their bad days. I may not correct them in front of other people, but you better believe when we get to the car or get home, momma's wrath is coming out. 

One of my kids got in trouble for swinging on their belly outside. They were even told, "And your mother is teacher!" Tell my kid to stop. Make them "change their color." Discipline them the same way you would any other kid. But don't make my children hate being a teacher's kid. They are just kids and should not have unrealistic expectations. 

4.On the flip side of that... Teachers need to quit talking trash about parents. (I'm guilty of this) Don't assume they are crappy parents. Don't assume their is huge concern just because they show up without their jacket one day. Or a day here and there without homework. Or they don't know how to help them at home. TEACH them how to help their kids. Have a parent conference where the kid is there too and let the parent watch you guide them through reading. Quit acting like its us vs. them. Partner with parents. Build a relationship with them. They love their kid just as much as you love yours or atleast as much as they know how. Don't judge them, just show them and equip them.
5. Extracurricular is so important. But simplicity is too. Find what your kid is good at or interested in. Let them do it if you have the means. Let them dance or play piano or play ball or do karate or be in a club or whatever. Those extracurricular activities really do enhance what happens in the classroom. It gives them experiences to bring to the classroom. Extracurricular activities activate a part of the brain that becomes useful in the classroom. And it gives kids a sense purpose and pride. But don't feel the need to overload your child with constant stimulation. It's ok for them to just sit and watch a TV show for a few minutes sometimes. It's ok to spend one night at home doing nothing. It's ok to just tell them to go to their rooms and play. 

Let me end by saying this: Every family is different. Some families are home bodies and some love to be on the move all the time. Some have kids who were reading at 18 months and some who didn't read until they were 7. Some parents allow endless technology and some severely limit it. Some eat processed food and some eat whole foods. You do whatever you feel is best for your family. God made you momma and daddy of your family for a reason. YOU are the parent. Don't feel like you need to do any more or any less because of what other mommas or teachers say is best. 

The best advice I was given was this: "When someone criticizes you or gives you suggestions. Consider it. If it convicts you and you feel they are right, make the changes needed. If you don't agree, just smile and nod and dismiss it quietly."