Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What I've learned about parenting

Ask any teacher you know -- "Why did you go into teaching?" For the kids, of course! Most of us (teachers) became teachers because we love interacting with kids, watching them grow, and helping them be successful. OR, we don't like working with adults. :) I'm somewhere in between the two.

I knew when I became a teacher that the kids would teach me so much. Even though they are only 5 and 6, my students teach me so much about life, love, and the world. Their views and ideas are like a breath of fresh air -- honest and to-the-point, sometimes funny, but always true. They have taught me so much in the past 5 years -- possibly as much as I have taught them.

What I didn't know is how much I would learn about parents, parenting, and families. I think we all underestimate just how much we will interact with families and parents. I'm fairly sure education colleges aren't honest about how much time and effort you will put into working with parents because they are afraid their students might quit. :) Don't get me wrong -- 90% of my interactions with parents and families are positive, fun, and happy. But, that other 10%? Oh my. That 10% can be a doozy.

I am always thinking about how much I have learned about parenting. I find myself constantly making quiet promises in my head, "When I'm a parent, I'm going to (or never going to)..." I know, I know -- there's no way I will adhere to them all. But, they still run around in my head constantly.

Here's a little summary. Let's call it -- "A child-less teacher's view on parenting" Yep. Sounds good to me.

  • Dear parents reading this. Your child is a reflection of you. Period. You give us a tiny person who has been raised in your household (usually) for the last five years. They talk like you, they act like you, and they talk about you. All the time. Beware, my friends. They will tell us your secrets. :)
  • Let's talk about shoes for a minute. What exactly do parents think kindergartners do at school? Model? Sit quietly and listen all day? No. They run, play, step in puddles/mud/snow/paint, use the bathroom (yep.). Please don't send your children to school in wedge sandals or slippers or flip-flops with no backs. Also, your child does not need to wear Ugg brand boots to school. Their teacher will be jealous and they will end up with papier-mache on them. 
  • [Side note on shoes] -- Kids should not be allowed to wear shoes with shoelaces in them until they can tie them independently. Hello motivation!! Yep, sorry future kids-of-mine. It's velcro for you until you can tie your shoes on your own. Your child's teacher will love you, you have built in a seriously genuine reward for your child's achievement, and your child will learn to tie his/her shoes faster than you could ever imagine. Win for everyone. 
  • I love seeing what my students wear to school everyday. Call me shallow -- but they are seriously adorable. They are like little dolls and you can dress them up in the world's cutest outfits. Now, keeping that in mind, let's be realistic about what they wear to school. If you honestly don't care what happens to Sally's Easter dress -- awesome! Let her show it off at school. If your little guy has two Gap button-down plaid shirts, let him wear it. But, just remember... kindergarten is not always pretty. I have honestly been humiliated by my newly "decorated" outfits multiple times when I stopped at the store after school. We use a lot of interesting mixtures in kindergarten. We squirt ketchup in the lunchroom, use "washable" markers, and play in the mud during science. Dress them at your own risk.
  • Yet another tip about wardrobes. Parents, please dress your children in clothes they can fasten, pull-up, undo, and take off independently. I can't even count how many tights I have pulled up -- overalls I have unbuttoned -- little jeans I have snapped. Do I mind? Of course not. But, make it easier on your child -- dress them in clothes they can comfortably work on their own. [And yet another reason I still am shocked by men who teach kindergarten...]
  • Teach your children manners. I feel like that shouldn't even need to be said, but it does. You might not think anybody will notice if your child is not expected to use please and thank-you, wait his turn to speak, say excuse me after a bodily function, etc. at home. But... I promise you... we do. I notice whose parents have taught them any type of manners in about a week of kindergarten. Once again -- I don't judge. I know every parent sends their best child to school. But, remember -- yet again -- they are a reflection of you. People do notice what you expect of them at home and in public... they wear it like a badge.
  • And although I could ramble on and on about parents and parenting (once again -- hypocritical blogger here... no children of my own) I won't. I will end with my most sensitive parenting issue. Please empty your child's backpack. Every night would be wonderful -- but be realistic if you need to. Aim for 3 times a week, if needed. But, please. Take out your child's hard work, important notes from the office, reminders about class happenings. Your child's little hands slaved over that giant letter O that looks like an octopus or that watercolor snow scene. You don't need to hang them all on the fridge... you don't need to talk about every single piece. But, I can tell you that in a job where many, many things will break your heart... nothing stings my eyes like a little kinder attempting to shove their artwork into a backpack that has been neglected for over a week. If you want them to have pride in their work... if you want to know what's going on at school... just empty their backpacks.
This job continues to surprise me everyday -- even after five years. That's probably why I love it so much.