By: Elinor Lister, Glenview Middle School English Teacher
Teacher-parent life or parent-teacher life?
Being a mom and a teacher has always made life interesting. There are many perks. Being off on holidays and breaks when your children are also off is probably the biggest perk. A teacher also understands the system and has an advantage, usually, when helping with school work and participating in teacher meetings and things.
One negative that is ever-present, though, is the inability to participate in your child’s school day as easily as other parents often can. It’s not always possible to walk your child into school on the first day because it’s also your first day of school. You need to be in your own classroom greeting your new and nervous students. You aren’t able to attend all of the parties that take place throughout elementary school. To take off, create plans for your students, and figure out how to leave your classroom to attend your child’s party is often more difficult than the thirty minute party is worth. And don’t even think about joining the PTO or other committees because most take place during the school day. You have to worry about all of your extra children, so oftentimes your own child takes a back seat.
Now, there may be supermom teachers out there who disagree with me. They may take off to be present at all of their child’s events. If you can, that’s amazing. I salute you. In my experience of teaching for twenty years and being a mom for fifteen, I have found it to be very difficult. I adore teaching; it is my passion. I adore my children; they are my whole heart. However, there are instances every year where I have to make choices between my personal children and my classroom children. I imagine most mom teachers feel the same at some point.
Then, COVID-19 hits…
This changes the entire Mom Teacher, Teacher Mom experience and daily life. I’m still worried about my own children, but now that worry takes on an entirely different format. I have three children around me all day, trying to complete school work. At the same time, I am preparing lessons and working with my students only through my computer. The separation of my two lives is now gone. The two lives that I live have now merged into one – literally.
Initially, this brought about a few days of complete craziness. Every child of mine needed help with work, while I was creating lessons for students and answering emails for what felt like the entire day. This insanity was not sustainable. As have most homes across our state and country, I needed a solution and a schedule.
My district set my office hours from nine to twelve every day. During this time, it has worked out very well for my children to complete any school work alone that they can do without help. After twelve, we get lunch, and then I help each one of them complete their work. It’s a long process, but it has been working for us.
Teacher-Parent, Parent-Teacher Tips
Throughout this process I have learned a few things that have been very valuable:
- Embrace the fact that my children can complete their lessons at any point in the day. One positive of learning at home is that it’s flexible. If we want to stay up late watching a movie as a family or doing something else fun, why not. They can sleep in. They can do some work and take a break to go play or get a snack. (Although in truth we’re all snacking a bit too much at my house.) This truth allows less stress for both them and me. If I’m busy with something for school or something for the house, they can do other things until I’m free to help them.
- Embrace the fact that my students also have very different schedules right now. Even though my office hours are from 9-12, many of my students are not working then or maybe aren’t even awake then. I get emails from students in the afternoons and evenings when they’re actually working. I have decided to check my email once in the afternoon and once in the evening and answer whatever has come through. I also know that there will be late work turned in. In the midst of what’s going on, there are students who just don’t want to do work on some days. There are also students who are watching siblings and handling other household responsibilities. Many homes don’t look like mine, and I need to allow for that flexibility with my students. As teachers, we can’t say, “Well normally they would have to complete this homework at home,” or “Normally they would only have two days.” There is nothing normal about this time and this way of learning.
- Embrace that this lack of normal should mean my lessons aren’t normal. Students are not sitting in class, able to focus on me or an activity like they typically would. And let’s face it, even sitting in class, that focus is sometimes sketchy. At home, they have siblings, food, phones, pets, televisions, video games, any number of things that to them beat out school work. Many of them also have working parents who may not even be home during the day. Their entire schedule is upside down. As a teacher, why would I offer something that I would struggle to get them to do or focus on if they were sitting in my classroom? State testing has been lifted!!! This is the time to engage our students. Allow them to explore and research, to be creative, to actually enjoy learning something about a subject. We should use interactive websites, create hyperdocs, give creative projects, find interesting articles and stories to read, and let them write expressively. Teachers often want more freedom, and now a positive in all of this is that we have it.
- Embrace that I truly can be Mom Teacher and Teacher Mom right now. Not every teacher is a mother or still has children at home, but this lesson can apply to all of us. Yes, being stuck at home stinks. Yes, we miss our students terribly. Yes, we really wish we could go back to normal life. BUT, when we have no control over the situation, we need to focus on what we can control and focus on what is good about the situation. I have been able to spend more time with my children in the last four weeks than I have in a long time. Yes, I live with them, but we have been able to stop and breathe and enjoy each other’s company. I am still teaching, and they are still learning, but we are able to also just be. We have done art projects, had baking contests, put together puzzles, watched movies, read books, and played outside. We are normally going a hundred miles an hour from one thing to the next – soccer, guard, volleyball, church, homework, dinner, etc. But right now, I get to be a little more mom than teacher. I am still a teacher; I am still preparing engaging lessons and helping my students. For once, though, I’m not having to choose between the two.
Teachers are often the worst about taking care of themselves. We worry about everyone else first. During this time when things are not normal, how about we work on self-care, enjoying some downtime, and making memories. Our normal school lives will be back before we know it. For now, let’s make sure we are okay, our children are okay, and our students are okay.
About the Author
Elinor Lister has taught high school and middle school English for twenty years and currently teaches eighth grade English in Anderson, South Carolina, at Glenview Middle School. She was the District Teacher of the Year for Anderson Five for the 2018-2019 school year. Elinor holds a Bachelor’s in English from Erskine College, a Master’s in Educational Technology from Lesley University, and a Master’s in Administration from Gardner Webb University.