Teaching and parenting are difficult enough on their own. When you combine them, you open the door to a world of difficulty that can have a negative impact on home and family life - if you let it.
When Your Child is Your Student
Most likely, the idea of spending every day with your children, seeing them interact with their friends, watching as they take in new concepts, and having an active hand in the learning process is something we fondly dream about but never actually get to achieve. However, for some teachers, particularly those in smaller school districts, it's a reality, one that can be a mixed blessing. If you find yourself in a position to welcome your own child into your classroom, there are some important things to consider to ensure that you both get the most out of the experience.
One: Some Students May Call Foul
No matter how fair and balanced you try to be as a parent and a teacher, some students are bound to see favoritism in your daily interactions. While this is natural - students want a level playing field as much as we do - it's an issue you should make every effort to nip in the bud.
You can do this in a few ways:
- Don't draw attention to your relationship. While in the classroom, you are your child's teacher, not mom or dad. It might be difficult for you to draw that line at first, but setting those boundaries early on will help you and your child navigate the school year.
- Hold your child accountable. You have classroom rules for a reason, so make sure that they apply to all students equally, no matter how much you want to cut your child some slack.
- Set expectations for your child; it's essential to have a conversation before the school year starts about your respective places in the classroom. Make sure that your child understands what the rules are, what you expect from him or her and what he or she can expect from you.
By making an effort to treat your child as you would any other student, you'll minimize the envy that's bound to crop up and be sure that you're meeting all of your students' needs.
Two: Other Teachers May Favor Your Child
Typically, your fellow teachers become friends over time. After all, you have plenty in common, so it's only natural that you would develop a personal relationship with them and their families. That can be a problem, however, when they interact with your child as they would any other friend's child. For example, when your child's peers see him or her socializing with other teachers outside of the classroom, it can lead to jealousy, cries of favoritism, and friction within the classroom.
As much as you want your child to have that friendly, familiar relationship with your co-workers, it's important to set boundaries. Make sure that your fellow teachers know that your child is to be treated just like any other student, and ask them to avoid the temptation to play favorites, no matter how much of a delight he or she may be in class.
Three: You'll Need to Give Each Other Space
As your child grows and matures, he or she will naturally need more independence. However, it can be difficult to provide that when you're in each other's company 24/7.
On the flip side, you need to be something other than your child's teacher/parent from time to time, too. When you teach in your child's classroom and then spend your evenings together, it's easy to find yourself experiencing some friction that can have a negative impact on your family's dynamic.
The good news is that with some effort you can give each other a little breathing room:
- Try to avoid monitoring the playground while your child is at recess. This gives him or her time to interact with peer groups without your all-seeing eyes.
- Schedule ''alone time'' after school and on the weekends so you can decompress and your child can spend time with friends.
- Have your spouse/partner or a relative pick your child up after school. If your child is old enough, allow him or her to go home alone and demonstrate the ability to make good choices, even when you're not watching. This approach will not only give your child some personal time but also give you a little quiet time to relieve the day's stress.
Four: It May Be Difficult to Set Boundaries
Drawing the line between parent and teacher can be hard enough when the two aren't combined. Making the designation when you're doing both can be downright difficult, but if your child is to thrive at school, it's essential that you set some boundaries.
As Heidi Butkus, a California kindergarten teacher notes, it can be very difficult to separate yourself from your child, particularly when he or she is very young. Setting boundaries early between ''teacher'' and ''parent'' can help you to be more effective and excel in both roles.
It's also important to avoid taking work home, like talking about other teachers and the behind-the-scenes happenings at your school. Your child shouldn't have insider knowledge of what other teachers or administrators do or think.
Teaching Your Child is an Opportunity
The chance to teach your own child in your classroom is a chance many teachers would jump at, and while it can be a challenge, it's an opportunity as well. You'll know what your child is doing all day, you'll be familiar with his or her friends, and you'll be in a position to intervene if you see issues related to schoolwork or socialization, something most parents can't do until after an issue has escalated. And, because these classroom years go by so quickly, it's a chance to hold on to them just a bit longer while you still can.