I use to teach English as a Second Language in elementary school. In the beginning, it was tough. Luckily, there is a learning curve in teaching (similar to parenting). You can’t really know what teaching will be like until you’re with your students. The same with parenting, right? You don’t really know what life will be like when you bring home your new sweet child.
I grew into teaching and my strengths were building trust, using multiple tools in my box to help the kids, and fostering a routine. My students knew I had high but fair expectations.
I didn’t know at the time but teaching was preparing me for parenting more than I could have imagined. And, now I see the reverse would also be true, parenting has made me a better (more understanding) teacher.
These are the 7 things I learned as a teacher that helped me as a parent.
Each day at school has the potential to throw curve balls in your direction, whether it’s a child not cooperating or it’s the change in schedule because of a practice fire drill. You have to learn to be flexible. It’s kind of like parenting and you planned the best play date and then the kids are sick. Or better yet, you get to the play date and the kiddos are melting down because they don’t want to share. You have to remember to be flexible.
Every child is different
Everyone wants to be measured by their own abilities. But too often, the only way to measure is to compare to and measure against one’s peers. Are they reading on grade level? In parenthood, we compare developmental milestones. Developmental charts are based on research but what about the times we compare to a friend’s child or to a sibling.
The reality is that success is as much about improvement as it is about achievement. Is your child trying? Making their best effort? Do you notice their gains? Each child has individual needs. Even siblings will not progress at the same rate or in the same manner.
Positivity, find the good even in the bad
It’s true – teachers have an important job. Behind those report cards and conferences is a lot of data and observations. Teachers spend quite a bit a time with children and they get to know their strengths and weaknesses. When it’s time to conference with a parent, I found it beneficial to say something positive about each child even if the data is showing less than promising growth. Say something positive…there is plenty of good mixed in with the bad.
Same with our children, right? Sometimes they challenge us on every level and it can be really, really hard. But, when we are focused so much on what the child didn’t do right, we may miss what they did do right.
It may sound silly but singing can really be such a positive tool! Singing builds language, teaches concepts, and just lightens the mood. We sing at home, we sing in the car, and we sing during some of those boring tasks like cleaning up toys.
Read every day
Reading is so important. The literacy demands in school have increased starting in kindergarten, so incorporating reading into your child’s day at an early age is setting the stage for future growth. We want children to embrace healthy literacy habits from early childhood. Let them be exposed to books in various locations throughout the house.
Our goal is to help children feel safe and ready to take on new challenges and master developmental tasks. Routines guide positive behavior and safety. Simple routines that start at home might be meal time, running errands, getting ready for bed, and taking baths. Routines in the classroom might be – how to transition between activities, how to line up, how to work in a group. Never underestimate the power of teaching routines.
Get to know your kids
Remember to spend time listening. Taking this time gives insight into their struggles and how you can help them be more successful. It’s just like that time that I really listened as to why my student wasn’t completing his homework. The student didn’t understand and the parents could not help because they didn’t speak English. With that extra information, I could be sure to help the student be successful. Most importantly, be sure they know you care.