I Used to Blame Parents But Now I Have Kids is the title of the recent Ignite talk I gave as part of the Ignite Your Passions event held in conjunction with a Canadian Education Association conference. Unlike previous talks, we were restricted by format this time – all using the “I used to ____________ But Now I __________ ” format. At the bottom of this post I have included the slides I used.
Here is some of my thinking. It is best to read with a bit of the tongue-in-cheek tone intended with the understanding it was a talk I gave in a bar (always one of the interesting parts of doing an Ignite talk):
I would often hear early in my career from my more seasoned colleagues, “if you don’t have kids you don’t understand.” I would always think that I was different. I was closer in age to my students than their parents, I was connected to the students and I figured I probably understood them better than their parents. I had no idea what I didn’t know and I lived largely in a black and white world.
Then, I had kids, and it really changed my thinking. I remember thinking pre-kids, “Really, you can’t find 15 minutes a night to read with your children?” I would wonder who these parents were, were they really that bad or did they just not care. Well I learned that it sounds easy, but sometimes finding 15 minutes at home is impossible and if you do find 15 minutes to spend as a family, maybe reading should not always be the first priority.
I was also one of those teachers who was outraged when parents took their kids out of school for a day to go on a family trip. Did they not respect what we did in school? Did they not understand what we did was important? Well, I have now been one of those parents. My vacation-time does not always align with the vacation time where my kids go to school. And yes, I have taken my kids, while not frequently, out of school so we could do something as a family. It was not an indictment of what the school was doing, I just know that sometimes there are experiences you want to have as a family that are almost impossible to limit to times when all the holiday stars align for all members of the family.
Having kids also made me better recognize the hope, pride, joy and dreams that parents have in their kids. All parents I know hope their kids will be a little smarter, kinder, more athletic and all-around slightly better person than they are. I know that is something I want for my kids. As the quote goes, parents are sending us the best kids they have. Parents are not adversaries (at times I thought that early in my career), they are allies. They are looking for insight advice and dialogue.
I get the amazing balancing act that is family – with home, school and everything else in life. And if having children has solidified my views on any one topic in education it is my negative views on homework, particularly in the early grades. There are few things worse than being a parent trying to help coordinate a group project with your son or daughter that will soak up the entire weekend. And don’t get me started on homework over holiday breaks.
All of my black and white views from my early 20’s are really now very grey.
This is not a rant that if you don’t have kids you can’t be a good teacher. Some of the most spectacular teachers I know don’t have children. What is true is that for me, many people, events and experiences have transformed my practice, none more than having kids.