Discover more from On the Journey
Teacher Mom Reality Check
The high school teacher becomes a high school parent
In Accepting the Unexpected, I step away from writing about travel to comment on the bigger journey of life. While the topics may vary, the central theme is always the same: living life means learning to deal with the unexpected.
Nothing confirmed my decision to be a high school teacher more than becoming a mother myself.
I love my children and I love being a mother. Since the day they were born I have loved reading with them, exploring outside, and playing some games with them. But early childhood is not my forte and this became abundantly clear when our children were small. In those early years, my husband Jeff often proclaimed by mid-July that it was time for me to go back to school because I was clearly going crazy at home. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be with my babies, I did. I just was at a loss as to how to entertain and engage them all day long.
My small children definitely benefitted from spending each school year with early childhood experts who knew how to engage them in play and learning. We don’t give these teachers nearly the credit that they deserve.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to help my children learn in those early years; I honestly didn’t know how to do it. I was a high school teacher. My days were spent teaching students how to research and understand Shakespeare and see the connections between Fahrenheit 451 and their modern world. Reading instruction, learning how to count, and elementary science experiments were beyond my scope of understanding.1 I’ve spent the last fourteen years trying to balance my passion for education and experience as a high school teacher with learning about inventive spelling, journaling, sight words, phonetics, base-ten math systems, class parties, and everything in between.
With the exception of a single year teaching only college students as I started my master’s program, my 21-year teaching career has centered around reading novels, writing analysis and research papers, and preparing students for College Board exams. Instead of class parties and room moms, Homecoming activities, prom, athletics, and clubs fill my students’ social calendars. My students are talking about break-ups and make-ups and bullying takes on a new kind of sophistication the older they get. They have jobs and are getting ready for the adult world. I love watching them grow from awkward adolescents to young adults during the school day, before returning home to my own little humans, who I have been watching learn and grow since before they were born.
But this year everything changes, because this year I have a high schooler. This year, my daughter is entering my world.
I’ve been preparing for this my entire career.
I finally know the lingo. I know teen drama, school events, Common App, NHS, SAT, ACT, AP, DC, course management systems, and diploma requirements.
But I’m not ready for the stuff that goes with it. The pain and the drama, the stress and the anxiety, the changes and the growth. I’m so excited to see the young woman that my daughter is going to become, and I’m scared for the road that she will have to travel over the next four years. (And I’m pretty sure I’ll feel the same way in three years when her brother starts the same journey.)
As our kids spend the next seven years combined in high school, we are now headed into a world of triumph and defeat, college visits and waiting for acceptance emails, and competition and heartbreak.
I’m not ready for my babies to grow up and leave home, but I am more than ready to finally feel like I understand what is happening, to have a grasp of what they need to do as students and humans. And I’ve finally accepted that they will be doing it at a safe distance from their mom.
When first I brought my babies home, I dreamed of the day that they would someday go to school with me. I dreamed (and sometimes dreaded) my children having my colleagues as teachers and debating whether they should ever be my own students.
That dream died when my career took an unexpected turn and I had to rethink my entire teaching future. In the end, we knew that whatever teaching job I would take next, it was highly likely that I would not teach in the same school my children attend.
And while I would have loved to get extra time with them, I think it’s okay. I’ve taught my colleagues’ children. My second year of teaching, I had my principal’s son in my class. He would be in my class for the next two years. When I started my second teaching job, my principal’s daughter auditioned for the first play I directed in the school. I would spend the next two years managing the politics of having my boss’s daughter in my casts. I have taught many of my colleagues children over the years, and it has always been a little awkward, even when those colleagues are good friends. Now I can speak a common language with my kids’ teachers and counselors without worrying about how they will see me or my children because they are also my coworkers. I’m appreciating the distance, and I think my kids will too.
I want time to slow down, but I know that isn’t how time works. I pray for a wonderful high school experience for our daughter, and I know that not every day will be good. In fact, some will be downright awful. But there are things about this stage of parenthood that I’m loving, and I’m just going to be thankful that we’ve made it this far.
But if we could put off those college visits a little bit longer, that would be great.
Want to try out paid subscriptions for free?
Refer my Substack to some friends you think might appreciate my work. Get one month for three referrals, three months for eight referrals, and six months for fifteen referrals. You can get referral credit for everything from emailing a post to friends, posting it on your favorite social media, or restacking the post on the Substack app. Once a friend signs up for my Substack, you get referral credit!
Order my new book!
I’ve written a memoir collection of essays based on several of my blog posts from the past seven years. It is available for purchase on Amazon.com.
And if you do purchase, please give it a favorable review on Amazon and Goodreads, or any other book tracking app that you might use.
Please “like” by clicking on the ❤ and share this post with your friends so that others can join me on the journey.
Seriously, we don’t pay any teacher enough, but early childhood teachers deserve far more credit for the experience and knowledge about early literacy that they bring to the table.