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Secret Teacher: becoming a parent has changed me as an educator

I recently returned to work full-time as a primary school teacher, having spent two years at home with small child. I felt like I needed a change. I needed a breath of fresh air. For some parent-teachers, the combination of the two roles has led to them leaving the profession.

Having my own child has made me more conscious of a parent’s point of view. And it’s increased my patience and understanding in the classroom. I see the irritating things my child do and realism that one day a teacher might find them irritating. On particularly hard days, I imagine my students are my own children and remember how important it is to respect them and understand them as individuals.

I’m not suggesting that wanting the best for your students is unique to parents; nor does having children automatically make a teacher “better”. I have worked with and learned from the most extraordinary, inspiring and caring teachers who don’t have children of their own. But I’ve changed as a teacher and a person since my two arrived in the world.

At home, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the daily grind – washing, tidying and the heap of general admin that goes hand-in-hand with family life. I have to remind myself to sit and play; to listen to them with complete focus; to be present. It’s the same at school. I’m thinking about introducing a time first thing in the morning where I can sit with a group each day and just let them tell me stuff – too often, I’ve batted away their excitement about seeing their friend’s dog, or that they found a funny shaped stone in the playground, to make time for phonics or assessments.

All the reading I’ve done as a parent, such as The Whole Brain Child and No Bad Kids, has been immensely useful in the classroom. Techniques such as acknowledging the emotion and naming it without judgment has helped me to connect with the more troubled children in my class. When a seven-year old with emotional issues crawls under the table or runs out of the room and slams the door, simply stating the feeling they are experiencing (“you’re angry because you didn’t get a sticker”) means they feel understood and often calm down much quicker.

On the flip side, when my child go to school, I hope I’ll be able to empathize more easily with their teacher as I know what it’s like on the front line. Recent research by Bath Spa University, published on this website http://www.metodichka.org/index/publikacija_na_portale/0-70, implies that the teacher-parent relationship is more fraught than ever before. I’ve experienced myself the effects of parents complaining about school on Facebook rather than speaking to me directly, and it’s pretty unpleasant. So I’ll try to be mindful about being open with my children’s teachers – and hope that they, too, will be open with me.