Before I was a professional Mommy, I was a professional Teacher. I loved my job and never doubted that a high school English classroom was right where I needed to be. But I always knew I would quit and join the ranks of full-time motherhood when that time came.
The more I think about it, the more I see that motherhood and teaching go hand-in-hand. Some of the best teachers are moms because they know how to handle kids and what to expect. Likewise, the best moms are teachers. Whether they've had a career in education or not, good moms start off teaching their children from birth.
I spent some time this morning reading through a stack of thank you letters from old students and I noticed some recurring themes that can also be transferred to motherhood.
Here is a list of what good teachers (and moms!) do, according to my 9th graders:
- You make kids do what they don't want to do, because you know that it's best for them. Growing up in a large family, we always had to do our share of housework without an allowance. I still remember calling my mom during my first semester at LSU to thank her for training me well. Before class that morning, I had scrubbed the shower in my town house. I couldn't help but wonder how many other college freshmen had cleaned their showers recently.
- You put your kids' needs ahead of your own, never taking the easy way out. As both a teacher and mom, it is exhausting to discipline students. It's much easier to let things slide or allow students to sleep in class, but as the above student pointed out, by making him stay awake and do his work, he actually learned (surprise!) and passed not only my class, but the state mandated test. And when I was pregnant, I remember laying on the couch, exhausted from morning sickness, when my toddler started going through CDs & DVDs again. I had two choices: Let it slide or give her consequences. I chose to give her consequences, even though I preferred to lay on the couch. But I also put a lock on the armoir so that I could rest without worry!
- Don't give up on kids and more importantly, you don't let kids give up on themselves. One student's letter thanked me for disagreeing when he insisted that he was a "bad kid." There's no such thing as a bad kid, only bad choices. Praise God that He doesn't give up on me!
- Bestow grace, grace, marvelous grace. When they fail you in some way, restore them quickly. Let them see that you love them unconditionally. In my classroom, I called this a do-over. My attitude was something like this: "Sure, I wrote you up and sent you to the principal's class yesterday because you were disrespectful and refused to do your work...but today is a new day. I love you & you're my student, so go in there and give today's assignment your best effort. Be sure to let me know if you need any help!"
- Share your passion with your kids. One artsy friend of mine enjoys taking her two homeschooled children to art museums, which they love too. In my English classes, I shared my passion for literature and poetry, and it was contagious. I also remember getting positively giddy one day as I explained the glories of my favorite punctuation mark, the semicolon. I quickly learned that if you think something is boring and miserable, your poor attitude will be contagious as well. Do you want your kids to have a burning passion for Christ and for His word? Let them see that scripture is real and matters in your life. Your love for people should be contagious as well.
I mess up in parenthood too. When we mess up, what do we do? I pray, apologize, and look for better solutions, knowing that just as I can give grace to my child, God gives grace to me.
What did you love about some of your favorite teachers?