The Lens of Your Classroom…Having Your Own Children in Your Class
I began my first year of teaching more than two decades ago. I thought I was a good teacher. I had an inner desire to make a real difference in the lives of the children in my class, and I wanted to be a great teacher. I spent hours preparing lessons, writing notes, planning presentations, planning class activities, and even more hours combing over every response on every piece of homework. It is safe to say that I had high expectations for my students and for myself because hard work breeds success. Right? Yet not everyone shared in my vision for success. I remember one staff member told me things would change when I had my own kids in school.
The opportunity came 15 years later. I knew this day would come. My dad taught me in school, and now, it was my turn to teach my oldest daughter. I was sure this was going to be easy. However, it was not easy then, and today I am teaching my fourth child, and the task is still difficult.
Teaching my own kids in my classroom comes with challenges. What if I call on them too much? What if I err in the other direction and give them too little of my attention? What if my kids are the smartest in the class and often earn the highest scores? What if they struggle in my class and I help them “too much”? Will their classmates think they get all the answers? All these things are bound to happen with your own child, and my children have experienced these challenges along with me.
My oldest daughter usually did well in my classes, and she had a heart for helping others. She learned quickly that I would not call on her until other students had an opportunity to respond. I positioned her in the back of the room in class, so she could motion to me she had a response and then would patiently wait with her hand down until I needed her response to keep the discussion and lesson moving.
This has not worked with each child. I currently teach my youngest two children in middle school. Dinner table conversations often include comments like, “Dad never calls on me in class,” or “He always sticks me with (that kid),” or “Dad, I don’t understand what you were talking about today,” or “Can we do something fun for a change?”. My kids are brutally honest, but I really appreciate their comments. My biggest fans and my biggest critics are my kids. They retell what the other kids are saying about school. They also have their own opinions. The secret is in the “formative assessment” gathered from my children.
Sometimes your children might struggle in your classroom. This became a real challenge for me. The truth is our children are often like everyone else in the class. What if your child has a learning disability or has trouble with executive functioning? These experiences can open your eyes to the reality other families struggle with each night. Sometimes you must adjust the lesson and the classroom strategies. Experiences like this can help you consider the struggling child when preparing lessons.
When I first started teaching, I thought a good teacher had to impress certain knowledge and skills. I also thought I was supposed to have all the answers, which lasted until some students asked questions I could not answer. Each year, experience provided many lessons. However, the best education I received was having my children as my students. They have helped me by acting as a mirror and giving me feedback on what life is like for other students. They also provide forgiveness when I err in the classroom. I’m thankful that God has placed my children in my room. I’m better for it.