Parenting is hard for EVERYONE, even teachers

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Parenting is hard for everyone, even teachers

Posts on how hard parenting is has clogged my social media feeds.  As a parent, I agree!  There are so many things that are different from when I was a kid and it can be really hard to be a parent.  I’ve also noticed how these changes have affected my students.  It is scary to be a middle school student these days.  One of my students was caught vaping in class as one of seven 6th graders!!!  I constantly have to remind my students that they cannot post inappropriate comments on Google Classroom and that EVERYTHING that they do on their chromebooks is recorded.  At least once I week I have to remind my students that even if it doesn’t look like their comments are linked to their name in Peardeck, they are linked to their name in the teacher portal.  I also have to remind them that I get an email every time they comment on Google Classroom, so even if they delete their post, I still have a record of it.

Even with these constant reminders, my students still don’t seem to understand that nothing is anonymous on the internet.  I am terrified for when my children are old enough to be in middle school and I recognize that the parents of my students are facing things that no generation has before.  These issues are affecting how we handle behavioral issues in schools.

As a teacher:

Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that my conversations with parents have changed.  When I started teaching, conversations would go like this:

Me: Hi Mrs. Smith, I’m calling to tell you that Johnny has not been behaving well in class. He has been blurting out and refusing to do his work.

Parent: Oh no!  We will talk to him and he will not do that again!

Recently, conversations are now going like this:

Me: Hi Mrs. Smith, I’m calling to tell you that Johnny has not been behaving well in class.  He has been blurting out and refusing to do his work.

Parent: Yeah.  He does similar things at home.  We don’t know what to do with him either.

We spend so much time trying to get parents involved in our schools.  We have a parent outreach position at our school and we have events to bring parents into our school. As teachers, we try to communicate with parents on good things we see with their children as well as bad. However, even with all of these efforts, we don’t seem to be engaging our parents in ways that support their children’s school efforts. As a math teacher, I constantly hear from my parents that they don’t know how to do the math we do and when I call on behavior concerns, they seem even more turned off to what I’m trying to say. Even more than that issue is the fact that often times the numbers that we have at school do not work because families move and forget to update their info or the parents don’t answer because they’ve already had 15 calls from the school this week and they just can’t handle one more call. In addition, we face poverty and transience in our schools that greatly impact our ability to contact our parents.

As a parent:

I understand where my parents are coming from. When I became a parent, I became a better teacher. It changed my perspective of the students in my class and allowed me to empathize with the parents of my students. When we just had my oldest, I was at the top of my parenting game. I was exhausted as all new mothers are, but I could handle it all.  

Now that we have 3 boys, it’s a constant struggle to manage everything that I have going on. I teach full time, I’m math department chair, I’m going to graduate school two nights a week, and try to get home early enough to feed my boys and get them to bed early. I do not have to do it all myself as I have an amazing husband and we work together to manage our busy schedules. We also have an amazing support system of my parents and my husband’s parents that are close enough to help out with the boys when we need them.

Even with all that support, parenting is REALLY hard! I often feel that I should understand better how to help my kids. I am working on my second master’s degree and all of my degrees are in education. My first master’s is in Special Education and I’ve taught gifted students for the last five years.  I’m trained in teaching challenging students and still can’t seem to get it right. Classroom management is something that I’m good at, but when it comes to managing my children with my husband, I struggle. We struggle to discipline consistently as my husband and I often see discipline differently.  

Recently, we were struggling with our middle son, who is four. He would have these epic meltdowns at daycare and at home where he would scream and hit for between 15 minutes and an hour. There never seemed to be a consistent cause that we could pinpoint to understand why they were happening. It was like he was seeing red and we were all struggling to get him to calm down enough to get out of it. I used all of my teacher tricks and talked to the daycare about using some of the tricks, but the tricks didn’t work all the time and eventually stopped working all together. The daycare was struggling to be consistent in how they handled him because they were having a lot of turn-over. My husband would come down strong on him and sometimes it would work and other times it wouldn’t. We scheduled to get him evaluated by a psychologist when he was kicked out of his daycare and we had to frantically find another center to move him to.  

As we went through the evaluation process with the psychologist we learned interesting things about him and the tips that we learned helped to improve our parenting for all of our children. We learned that he needs support for language and he may have ADHD. After learning this about him and working to help him improve his language and manage his impulses, we are now on a path to help him be successful in kindergarten.

As a teacher and a parent:

At this point, I am not surprised when a parent tells me that they don’t know what to do with their child because I often feel that with my own kids. I want to be able to tell them that I understand and commiserate with them on how hard parenting is, but I never feel that it is my place to say those things. I’m currently teaching all advanced math classes and I feel that it’s harder to have these conversations because the parents know that their kids are smart and they feel even more insecure due to not being able to handle them.  

If I could have that conversation with parents, I would want to say:

  • Parenting is REALLY REALLY hard.
  • It’s ok to get help when you are struggling to help your child be successful and that it’s especially ok to get help when your child is smart.
  • I love when the parents of my students communicate when things happen that keep their child from doing their homework, but please understand that I use homework to help my students learn responsibility, so I will still hold them accountable.

Parents and teachers don’t always have the same priorities when it comes to children’s behavior, but we need to work together to support each other. Ultimately we want students that understand how to act appropriately in many different situations. I want my parents to teach their children how to be appropriate at their home and out in public. That is based on their own values and I would never want to infringe on that because it is crucial for students to understand how to act in their home culture. I also want the parents of my students to understand that I will be teaching my students how to act in our school culture. The school culture may differ from the student’s home culture, but both are important.

I can’t say enough that we need to support each other. We all have the students best interests at heart and need to work together to help our students be successful in this ever-changing world.


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ShaunaWooldridge

I am a middle school math teacher.  I love to make math relevant and fun!  Currently, I'm going through a master's program in Educational Leadership, so my view has been shifting to different types of leadership in schools and I own the Paths of Leading blog, at pathsofleading.com.  I have a wonderful husband and am a mom to 3 crazy boys!

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