Since I started teaching for reals again, several people have asked me how my kids like having me at their school.
We've been lucky, I guess. Even when I was substitute teaching I rarely had my own kids in class. Sooner or later I will have The Prince for a short, junior high exploratory class. And The Princess has threatened to take my baking class next semester. (Really? You never want to be in the kitchen with me at home! Feel safer with witnesses around, do you?)
But that's not my point.
My point is, no one has asked how I like having my kids at my school.
Answer: I'm not sure.
On the one hand, it's no big deal. The Prince totally ignores me. He would walk down a different hall to avoid being anywhere near me if he could, but he can't, so I take every opportunity to wave at him and embarrass him. Nah, actually I grew tired of that after 10 or 20 times, so I don't even look for him anymore.
And when The Princess forgets to have a permission slip signed, needs money for yet another spirit t-shirt or doesn't bring her lunch, she can just pop down to my room. And when I forget my computer, she's willing to run home to get it and take an “excused tardy” for the team.
On the other hand, The Prince totally ignores me and The Princess can pop in to my room whenever she needs something. And she feels free to give me fashion advice – loudly – whenever she sees me in the hall.
Having taught before and having suffered through the perpetual ignorance of being a substitute (“No, really, our teacher always lets us go to lunch 20 minutes early”), I thought it would be great to know who's who at the zoo. I looked forward to having FOPPs (Friends of The Prince and Princess) in class.
And for the most part, it has been fun. There's less of the ol' switcheroo while I'm taking attendance. I do wield a little group-Mom power when dealing with scofflaws in the hallway, as in “Does your Mom know you talk like that, and would you like me to tell her what you said when I see her at the next PTO meeting?”
But there are times when it's hard for all of us to remember that I am Mrs. Salemink, and not Mrs. Gabby's Mom. Or that there are times when I am Mrs. Gabby's Mom the Teacher, and not just Mrs. Gabby's Mom the Mom.
My first time around as a teacher – when my kids were The Princess-ling and Prince-let – there were a couple of students who were a real pain in my… side. But a wise, veteran educator taught me this lesson:
Every student is someone's child.
You can take this two ways.
One: We only have to put up with the little monsters for an hour or two each weekday. Their parents have them All. The. Time.
Or Two: They may be a pain in the ass at school, but someone, somewhere, loves them unconditionally (I hope). They are the center of someone's universe (besides their own). They are the sunshine of someone's life. They embody someone's hopes and dreams for the future.
As my own children grew and I gained more exposure to the great unwashed, overly body-sprayed, hormonally-charged cauldron of angst and uncertainty that is junior high and high school, I realized that pre-teens and teens are human too (despite evidence to the contrary). They carry around the same steamer trunk filled with insecurities and the same mis-matched emotional baggage we all have. They gently cradle the same ticking time bomb of crisis potential that we all hold.
They just do it with more drama. And volume. And in groups. Cloaked in a cloud of body-spray.
Unfortunately I am a slow learner and I have to remind myself precisely seventy gazillion times a day not to take it personally. They are not deliberately trying to drive me crazy. They are just teens being teens.
But if I could, I would like to teach them this lesson:
Every teacher is someone's parent (or favorite aunt/uncle/cousin or child).
You only have to put up with us for an hour or two each weekday. Our families have to put up with us All. The. Time.
We have children/family/pets of our own who are the center of our universe, and we do our best to provide gravity and stability to their universe. They might not admit it, but they love us (or at least like us a little bit... sometimes). We bask in their sunshine and worry about their future.
We carry around the same steamer trunk filled with insecurities and the same mis-matched emotional baggage that you do, but ours have broken handles and are held shut with duck tape. We gently cradle the same ticking time bomb of crisis potential as you do, but we've learned how to set the snooze alarm on ours.
And one more thing:
I may be a mom but I'm not your mom, so pick up after yourself!