261. When Parents Are Teachers

I’ve often heard teachers say that teachers make the worst parents. The statement, as I’ve heard it, has usually referred to one aspect of parenting – relating to a child’s teachers. Parents often have strong opinions about what should and should not happen in school, and when a parent is also a teacher in a school, the way he/she expresses such opinions can be downright obnoxious. And the teacher, who sometimes likes to say, “That’s the way teachers do things nowadays,” can only say, “That’s the way we do things in this school,” or “That’s the way I do things.” It’s harder to be the voice of “the way things are” when you’re talking to someone else who’s also such a voice.
There is a way to build bridges and establish trust between teacher/parents and teachers. If teachers respect the knowledge and experience teacher/parents carry around, and vice versa, the relationship can become one of collegiality. I’ve often tried to build that kind of relationship with teacher/parents, and I’ve often succeeded. Good teaching and good parenting aren’t really so different, and children can flourish when adults who care about them communicate with each other. Each has some insight, and together, they can move mountains.
But it doesn’t always happen that way, and that’s why it’s sometimes said that teachers make the worst parents. A teacher/parent hears about what happens in school, and forms opinions. That’s natural. And if children complain about what a teacher has done, or seem to be reflecting negative influences a teacher has had, it’s natural to want to do something about it. If the parent is a teacher, she/he has ready-made proof that there are alternatives to the way things are. And so it’s easier to get the teacher to be defensive. I speak from experience as a teacher.
As a parent, I tried hard not to come to conferences as a teacher. I tried to put my own style and philosophy aside long enough to hear what teachers had to say about my children. But sometimes I couldn’t. I’d listen to the teacher for a while, but then start reacting: what right does this person have to be a major influence on my child? This person thinks so differently from the way I think! And then I’d stop listening.
My convictions about the way to help children grow are real, and some of them are as fundamental as some people’s religious convictions. I don’t deny that I developed some of these convictions as I taught and took education courses. So at least in some ways, I was one of those teachers who were the worst parents. But I hope over the years I got so I could listen well to teachers, even if I didn’t agree with everything they did. If I could manage to see the strengths teachers had, life was easier for the teachers, my children, and myself. And maybe I could have some influence now and then.

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