Teacher or Parent: Does One Role Trump the Other?

The Teacher Becomes a Parent

I was a teacher for two years before I became a mother, and I approached the two “jobs” in a very similar fashion. I started with an inventory of what I already knew, participated in classes to expand my knowledge and sought out the advice of peers. I felt fully prepared to be a mom, right up until the day I brought my son home from the hospital.

That first night my son would not stop crying. I called my pediatrician and was told that if he was fed and wearing a clean diaper he’d just have to “work it out.” That didn’t feel right to me, so I tried everything that I had read, heard or could think of to ease his discomfort. Finally I called my mom to admit my defeat. She calmly told me, “Julie, does he cry when you’re holding him?” I told her no, but that I was afraid of spoiling him. My mom laughed and said “Just hold him. We’ll worry about him being spoiled later.”

Teaching, like parenting, is a complex and challenging job that requires a certain amount of participation to fully understand the job. To fully understand what teaching entails, one has to do the job.

Even though I had prepared myself as best as I could, I struggled at first. I remember many late night conversations with my husband where I cried because I felt inadequate, that I had made a bad career choice. However, I was determined to learn and grow and be better every day. My experience in teaching has provided me with some unique insight that I hope to share.

The Parent-Teacher Becomes an Advocate

I think teachers are sometimes at a disadvantage when talking about education policy because they feel their teacher role trumps their parent role. As someone with insight in education policy, I have a responsibility to help other parents understand how legislation and policies impact what happens in the classroom.

Yes, I am a school district employee, but I have a voice as a parent, too. No matter what, my job as parent comes first.

Nicholas and Julie Hiltz, First Day of School, 2013

There are times when I struggle to find the balance between what I think is right as a parent, and what I think is right as a teacher. For example, I support teacher accountability, but not the current approach of using high stakes testing. What was gained by having my six-year-old son take a year-end test on Music and Physical Education? Sure, he learned some new vocabulary, but did that demonstrate that he had learned to appreciate music as an art form or that he has embraced a healthier lifestyle? I hope to change that for him and many other students.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. I want to learn to be a better mom and teacher, and I’m certainly open to feedback from those who have more experience than I do.

As a parent-teacher, how do you balance your roles, especially when policy flies in the face of what you know is best practice?

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