Do parents make better teachers?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by catnfiddle, Aug 30, 2013.

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  1. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I saw this article on Slate and, for some reason, it put me on the defensive. On one hand, I am childless due to a number of factors. On the other, I am old enough to be a parent to my students, and often get incredibly maternal with them (I would have delivered tea with honey to a sick student today, but Rockhubby borrowed my car).

    What say you? Are you a different or better teacher because of your parental status? Do you prefer your children are taught by teachers who have kids of their own? Does this supposition make you think about your own status as a parent of non-parent?
     
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  3. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    I don't think I'm a better teacher, but I'm a different teacher now.

    I always have my Henry in the back of my head when I'm teaching, like an echo. I don't realize it's there until something triggers it. I saw a little boy bawling in the lobby the other day, and I couldn't help but imagine it was my kid. I didn't really care what he had done-I wanted to run over and scoop him up. I would not have had that urge before. That doesn't really have anything to do with how I deliver lessons, but it does affect me as a person.

    I'm super aware of how much homework I give-we have a rough commuting situation at night, and I think about how I would hate for Henry to have tons of homework on top of everything else.

    I also hold parents more accountable in my head for their kids' behavior. I have a kid who is just pushing pushing pushing. He's on a plan, and it's not getting better. I just keep thinking-where is the mom and dad? It may not be fair, but I think-I would be all over Henry in this situation. I would so embarrassed to have my child act that way, and I KNOW parents could be more involved. And even as tough as it is to be a single parent (which I am during the week), you still have a lot of agency in shaping your child and giving them expectations.

    I basically just see my son in all the kids I teach, and I'm always asking myself-how would I want this situation to end up if it was Henry? I never had that to bounce off from before. But I was always very passionate and empathetic and motherly.

    ETA: I would not care one bit if Henry's teachers were childless or a mother/father of a whole brood. As long as they loved my child and put in the time needed for their classroom, I'd be happy!
     
  4. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I was a teacher for 9 years prior to becoming a parent. The advantage of being a parent is a greater understanding of what's going on at home. I would not pick teachers based on their status as parents.
     
  5. Rabbitt

    Rabbitt Connoisseur

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    I completely agree...I understand the chaos at home now.

    Like Jem, I ask myself what I would want done if this was my son. I also send home less info knowing that only the necessities will get taken seriously.
     
  6. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I've only been a parent in my time as a teacher, but I do think that being a parent gives a teacher additional perspective.
     
  7. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I'm kidless and I think a parent would be a better teacher because they have more experience dealing with kids! I think experience makes a teacher better, and when you're a parent you have more experience working with kids, helping with homework, chores around the house, discipline, etc. I think that's what gives a parent-teacher the edge.

    But I don't think that should be taken into account when hiring.
     
  8. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I think there are two sides to the coin. I'm able to contribute more to the environment of the school than my coworkers who have kids. I can get to work early for meetings without worrying about dropping off kids at school. I can stay late after school without worrying about childcare. I can come back for performances, sporting events, etc. without worrying about if homework is done, supper is cooked, clothes are clean for tomorrow, etc. I find that many teachers who are parents miss more work than many who are not. I only have to miss work when I am sick, which has happened about twice since I've been teaching. One of my coworkers was out twice last week, with two different kids with strep. So I can see some positives of not having kids, also.
     
  9. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    On one hand, teachers who have kids of their own have a particular insight into children, from their personal experience. Makes sense huh?

    On the other hand, teachers who don't have children are sometimes able to be more objective with my child.

    I feel I am a better teacher because of my experience with my children. I feel I understand children better and am more compassionate. This makes me more soft hearted. Which can be a good thing in some cases. But I admit that sometimes my compassion wins out over my objectivity.

    So I think it could be a toss up.
     
  10. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I don't think I need to be a parent to understand what goes on at home. I was a kid once, and remember what it was like trying to juggle things in our family. I also have a brother who is significantly younger than I am, and I see how he and my parents have to juggle things between home, work, and school. Regardless of my own experience as a kid and having a younger brother, I don't think it makes much difference in teaching ability. All it takes for a teacher to be understanding is to have some empathy, wisdom, and common sense. Raising your own children isn't what makes the difference.
     
  11. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I was a kid and student.

    I was a kid with several siblings. Older, younger, and much younger.

    I know life is crazy.

    I know homework can't always be priority.

    I know kids should be treated with respect.

    I know almost every parent wants the best for their children.

    I know this...yet I'm childless.

    Some teachers with children are superior. Some teachers with children suck. Some teachers without children shine brightest. Some teachers without children are blah.
     
  12. thirdgradebuzz

    thirdgradebuzz Comrade

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    My mom always said my K and 1st grade teachers were the best I ever had because neither one had children, and they both poured a lot of themselves into their students.

    I think a childless teacher can absolutely be just as good as a teacher with children. It all depends on the individual person and their effort. The idea from the article, that I couldn't be as good as a coworker because I don't have kids, is pretty offensive to me.
     
  13. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I don't think "better" is the right word. I think "different" is probably fair.
     
  14. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    I am a parent, but I was going to say exactly this. As a parent not only do you have to worry about being out sick for your child, but also if you're sick.

    In my personal experience, I think I became a better teacher after I had my daughter than I was before. I'm certainly not going to hold it against a teacher if they don't have kids!
     
  15. MsMar

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    I read the article in the NY Times that this article references when it came out a few days ago. What struck me wasn't that the teachers were child-free, it's that they were mainly in their 20s and principals were in their late 20s or early 30s. I wouldn't care about sending my children to a school where none (or almost none) of the teachers are parents, but I sure would care that most have 1-3 years experience.

    As far as if I think I'm a better teacher because I'm a parent, I've been a parent since I started my teaching career so I can't compare and contrast. I do think I understand my 5th graders a bit better as my own children were in 4th and 6th grade when I started as a 5th grade teacher. But I don't give a hoot if my own children's teachers have children. I like that at their middle school they have a mix of teachers of various ages and years of teaching experiences.
     
  16. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Age probably does play a large factor. When I was 20, I dropped out of my college education program after a bad field experience. This was a wise decision for myself and a merciful one for any students spared my immaturity. When I was student teaching at 33, my 7th graders started to spark a nurturing side of myself I didn't have before. Now that I'm 41, I'm almost fiercely maternal about my students in a way that makes my cat jealous (she tends to sit behind me when I teach and demand attention when I'm lecturing a big group). The funny thing is that I didn't have that maternal void in my life and still am fine being childless. However, hurt my students and I will go bananas.
     
  17. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I feel I'm able to do more. I'm more willing to go to games and other school events. I'm better able to lead clubs because I don't have to worry about taking care of my children. I also think of all my students as my kids. If the football team has a bad game tonight, I will feel bad with them. I was in high school six years ago. I remember what it was like. I actually find I'm one of the only teachers who truly takes into account after school commitments. I almost always give multiple days per homework. It's easiest that way.
     
  18. dave1mo

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    I wouldn't care about their relative experience level; I would care whether they're effective teachers or not.
     
  19. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    I think it goes both ways and it depends on the person, everyone is different. I've seen teachers come back from having a baby and completely lose their passion for teaching- they want to be home with their baby. (Not every teacher with children, but I've seen a couple in my school alone in the past few years.) They're not bad teachers by any stretch of the imagination you can just see they're not putting in the same effort they did when they were childless. I know I couldn't keep up with the amount of effort I put into each lesson, each batch of cupcakes, each classroom decoration, etc. that I do now if I had children. But maybe there are other aspects of my job I would be better at...its different for everyone. You can't say all teachers will children are better than teachers without children. There's so many other factors.
     
  20. Peregrin5

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    The best teachers in our school are the ones without children. But I've met great teachers with children as well.

    The best ones seem to be teachers who have had children but they're all grown up now and not living at home. Those teachers have seen it all and they don't have to worry about running home to take care of their kids.
     
  21. ecteach

    ecteach Devotee

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    Being a parent has made me a better teacher for sure. I constantly ask myself, "What if this were MY child?" But, that's just me. Being a parent makes me a better person in general. Others might not be as shallow as I was before I had a child.
     
  22. readingrules12

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    I think those who are teachers and also parents learn much as a parent that can help them in teaching. I don't doubt that. For myself, who got married late, the Mrs. and I were not able to have children. I consider both her and I to be very good teachers. We have learned a lot from other teachers, PD, books, and experience. While the path to excellence in teaching might be more difficult for a non-parent, it is still there if one seeks it. Many teachers have proven this.
     
  23. Croissant

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    I've been slightly offended in the past by comments like, "Well, I'm a mama. They know I won't let them get away with that," or "Well, you don't have kids of your own." This is only my third year of teaching, but I've worked with kids for a long time. I also helped raise a much younger sibling, and I have nieces and nephews. I have more experience with kids than some of these parent-teachers who make these comments, and it really bugs me that they assume it gives them some sort of edge. Unless all of your students are exactly like your kid or you have 25 of your own children at home, I don't really see how it makes you any better.

    On the other hand, we do have a couple of first-year teachers who had never spent a significant amount of time with a child until the first day if school. I would imagine parent-teachers would have a significant advantage there for awhile:)
     
  24. carlea

    carlea Comrade

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    Absolutely agree!

    I actually feel like a worse teacher now that I am a parent because I don't have the time at home to devote to planning, grading, etc. I also don't think that I understand children better just because I have my own.
     
  25. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    I think it's more a matter of being a different kind of teacher.

    I don't have children. The teachers at my school who do have children have far better time management skills than I do.

    They also have more on their plates. They deal with sick kids, kids misbehaving, worries about home issues, orthodontist appointments, etc. I don't get calls during the day to pick someone up or someone coming by my room for lunch money.

    (Then again, I get volunteered for everything because I don't have children at home).

    I love my students. I think I'm a little more objective than teacher-parents. I don't see them as anything but themselves, and I don't try to get into anyone else's shoes. There are times when that's a good thing, and there are times would it might be better if I could wear a parent hat.
     
  26. Jerseygirlteach

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    I am a parent, but I've seen too many fantastic, childless teachers to think having children at home means that much. You can get plenty of insight into a child from teaching experience alone. I do feel like being a mom helps me relate to my student's parents a bit more.

    Incidentally, having commitments at home doesn't make me less of a teacher either. I dedicate myself as much as anyone and I think having a good work/life balance makes me a better teacher and a better person.
     
  27. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    In my first school I was the only teacher without children. Most of the other teachers were in their early 30's and were either getting pregnant around that time or had young children at the time that we worked together. I got SO tired of hearing about "pregnancy brain" and then "baby brain" and "toddler brain" used constantly as an excuse for teachers who always missed deadlines, "forgot" about meetings despite multiple reminders, never had data for RtI, didn't follow up with parents, etc. They would just say, "Oh, I completely forgot...you know, pregnancy brain!" and everyone would laugh and completely let them off the hook. Once or twice, sure...but it was like they felt that they didn't have to have any responsibility at all. One even expected her teammates to write/prepare her lessons when she came back from maternity leave. I fully admit that it would be MUCH harder to teach with young kids at home. When I get home, my time is mine- I don't have to worry about a second job of caring for kids. However, I think everyone should still be responsible for doing the job they were hired to do- it's not fair to the kids in the class otherwise. Of course I don't "get it" because I don't have kids. One of my teammates last year always "couldn't" do any after school/evening functions because of her kids- all of whom were 17 or older. It's not like they needed a babysitter! I'm not saying that everyone who has kids acts like this, it's just been my experience and I do find it frustrating.
     
  28. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I agree with some of the others--I am a different teacher than I would be if I didn't have children. I know that I wouldn't be working with the age group that I am if I had never had children that age. I am more understanding about how "stuff" outside of the classroom impacts what goes on in it. Better, no, just different.
     
  29. OhThePlaces

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    I was childless my first two years of teaching. Then I had two babies (21 months apart) and took four years off to stay at home with them. I came back to teaching in the middle of last year.

    I do feel like a better teacher now, but there are several factors involved. When I started, I was barely 23, and I'm now 29. In my case, wisdom definitely came with age. I feel more confident in my decisions and comfortable in my role.

    I also feel that I'm a bit more patient and understanding and my time management skills have improved greatly. I also can relate with parents more now (that could also be attributed to age).

    My oldest will be on kindergarten next year and I will definitely not choose his teacher based on whether or not she's a mother. We have a lot of amazing teachers at my school and many are without children.
     
  30. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think that knowledge is power.

    Being a parent SHOULD give you more insight into how kids learn, how they react, how they think and feel into their day to day life and stresses, and a million other little things. So it should, at least in theory, give every teacher knowlege that they didn't already have, and make them better teachers than they were before.

    Of course, if they're abysmal teachers before, then advancing to "slightly less awful" doesn't really make them "good" teachers.

    And if they're already amazing teachers, and tehy don't have kids, they stay amazing.

    And how or whether they translate that knowledge into the classroom is another variable.

    I KNOW that becoming a mom has made ME a far better teacher than I was before. I have learned (and do, on a daily basis) things that help strengthen my classroom skills.

    So I'm better than I was; not necessarily better than anyone else.
     
  31. bison

    bison Habitué

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    I think EVERY major life event will change you as a teacher, including having children. It might be a somewhat unique profession in that way. The difference could be good or bad, but there's no way something as big as having children wouldn't leave a mark. I think I am better with the kids in certain difficult situations as a result of experiencing loss at a young age. Some teachers are better in other areas because they have kids, had divorced parents, have seen the world, etc.
     
  32. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    All experiences impact a person's teaching ability. I could say that being a parent may actually make a teacher worse especially if they have kids that have personalities that are conducive to integrating into a present day education and have no problems with learning whatsoever. A parent that is lucky enough to have children such as this will see parenting a breeze compared to a parent that may have a child with an extremely difficult personality or trouble with learning. An organized parent may have an easier time parenting because they have the strength of organization and time management, but a person without this may find their life falling apart when children come into the picture even though they were able to handle themselves prior to having the additional responsibility. I feel the worse scenario is that person that had a difficult child but was able to find the right help and have the child manage to be successful because it then becomes the idea that everyone should be able to do the same thing.

    So, I think you have to look at the teacher's skills before and after. It may help a teacher to have children, but it may actually make them turn into a judgmental teacher that believes their parenting experience makes them judge all parents according to their parenting experience.
     
  33. BumbleB

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    I don't have kids, but one of my teammates that does has said that her teaching style didn't change until her son was actually the same as age as her students. That's when she looked at each lesson and thought to herself, "could my son do this? would my son be interested in this?"

    I think that's a really interesting way to look at it :)
     
  34. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I think for me it just allows me to relate to the parents of my students better because I too am in their shoes. I am a parent and see things from their side. I know this topic is controversial, as is my answer, but that is how I feel. My daughter has had very young teachers in the past who have been unmoving and unforgiving if I ask for another day to do homework (as in, ¨This is the only time I will allow it¨) and I feel part of that could be due to not relating to the parents. Does this mean that all teachers without children cannot relate to parents? No, I am not saying that. I am sure there are fantastic teachers out there without children who can relate to the parents, but I do think having a child does allow you to see things from the parents´side.
     
  35. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    You mean like when you get home in the evening and start dinner only to find out your infant has a 103 fever and the doctor's office is not open. So, you have to take him to the emergency room or the urgent care clinic and your spouse is at work. Your typical babysitter has a volleyball game and everyone else you know is running a million other places so your school age child has to go with you to urgent care and can't do her homework because she is being drug around because of no other choice. It would be ok to bring the homework, but some of it actually requires the computer or some "family oriented" homework that requires doing something at home like measuring her room to learn about measurement. The teacher side of you knows the practice is important and you don't want to tell her to lie and make something up. So, you ask for an extension on the homework and you are told that in the real world extensions are NOT given and the sooner she learns that life happens and she has to figure out to deal with the failure that comes when you don't do things as instructed.

    Yep, having children puts things in a different perspective. The idea of zero tolerance for error has a new meaning. Then after the child is told she gets a zero because life got in the way, teacher wonders why the child doesn't want to take risks in other academic endeavors and only wants to do what she is only 100% sure she can do properly.
     
  36. thirdgradebuzz

    thirdgradebuzz Comrade

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    It doesn't take being a parent to know that "life happens." I'm childless, and trust me, I get it. The scenario you gave above is a very extreme example and certainly not an everyday occurrence.

    I almost never give "family oriented" homework that a child can't do on their own. When I do give a project that might require some parent assistance, they have a whole week and one weekend at the very LEAST to complete it. And if it's late, of course I still accept it.

    Emergencies don't happen to everyone all the time. They're just that-- emergencies. If you have a busy family life occurrence that interferes with homework, reasonable teachers will understand and accommodate. However, they won't (and shouldn't have to) understand if these "major emergencies" happen every week or two.
     
  37. dave1mo

    dave1mo Comrade

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    And when parents help their child lie about the reason a project/homework wasn't completed, we're supposed to accept it, right?
     
  38. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    If you read my previous post, I said the impact depends on the teacher.

    For you, you may know life gets in the way (sometimes). For others, life is never an excuse. So, for some teachers, being a parent really makes them see what life is like when there are multiple people to have everything working smoothly.
     
  39. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    No. I didn't say that, but parents will learn rather quickly that some are teachers are unreasonable and will choose to lie instead of dealing with the unreasonableness. When the punishment doesn't fit the crime, people will make choices that aren't always ethical.
     
  40. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I know many childless teachers who have very strict homework policies and so forth who were the same after children as it's just part of their personality. It's not like becoming a mother instantly turns you into a giant, cuddly teddy bear. Of course it can and does often influence how one teaches, but if you're a stubborn, hard-nosed teacher before, you're likely to be one after children...possibly just more stressed, too. :)

    Maybe some people really don't remember their youth...I'm not sure. But I do. I really don't need children to understand life, and I'm always annoyed when some refuse to accept that's truly possible. I didn't even assign homework besides reading and that wasn't even monitored through parent signatures. I value family time despite not having children as part of my own little family.

    And I know it's not all about homework. In general I think I'm a very understanding and compassionate person and teacher.
     
  41. microbe

    microbe Comrade

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    I feel the article made an odd leap. These charter schools are specifically hiring young people that they can take advantage of:
    The issue isn't that these people aren't parents - it's that they're inexperienced. An experienced teacher is a valuable commodity, regardless if they are a parent or not.
     
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