slice of life · writing

Teaching Your Own Child

There are plenty of teachers out there who land up teaching their own children at some point during their child’s education career. And quite frankly, I don’t know how they do it! I mean, if I had to teach my own child in the classroom, I’m sure I’d make it work. But, OHMYGOODNESS, it would be hard!

Case in point: I was volunteering in the writing center of Isabelle’s preschool classroom yesterday. I was there to work with the kids on their writing journals. Only one student is in the emerging stage of writing where she’s attempting phonetic spelling on the page. (#notmykid) The rest are drawing pictures and dictating to me.

Isabelle entered the writing center about 15 minutes into writing time. But she wasn’t ready to work. She was more interested in chatting than writing. So I got tough. I insisted she write her story (for which she claimed she had no ideas even after we thought of some things she could write about). She stood up and bothered her friend at the table who was trying to draw the people in her story. She wanted to talk to us rather than work. I knew what I had to do. I told her to “leave and come back” when she was ready to write.

She was NOT happy.

She teared-up.

I remained firm. “Just because you’re my kid doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want when you come over here to work with me.”

She muttered, “But Mommy…”

“No,” I cut her off. “If you need to think of me as Stacey when I’m in the classroom, then do that. But you have to come back when you’re ready to write.”

She sulked her way out of the writing center. Eventually (i.e., ten minutes later), she returned with a better attitude.

However, she wasn’t committed to her journal like she has been in the past classroom visits. Her drawing was sloppy; not at all like the writing she’s been producing at home when she voluntarily sits down to “write.”


This was supposed to be a story about how she tried out a bunch of beds, like Corduroy, while my husband and I shopped for chairs at the furniture store this past weekend.

After she dictated her story to me, I asked her, “Was this your best work?”

“No,” she replied.

“You’re right. It’s not your best work. I know you’re capable of telling stories and drawing pictures. You will do better than this the next time I come in, right?”

Tears welled up in her blueberry eyes. This time, the waterworks affected me. I dropped the teacher side of me and became Mommy again. I drew her close and hugged her. “I know you will do better next Monday when I come in. You have so many stories to tell. We’ll write more at home this week. Okay?”

This is something Isabelle produced at home, ON HER OWN. Originally it had two pumpkins. Then, she told me her story and realized the picture did not have enough on it so she went back to her craft table to add more details to her picture. And THEN I wrote her story on the sticky note.

She nodded and walked off to the puzzle area. When it came time for me to leave, she didn’t give me her usual hug. In fact, she didn’t even gaze up from her puzzle when I came by to say good-bye. Great, my kid hates me now. But I didn’t push it. I talked with her teachers about something unrelated and walked away.

I spent the next few hours feeling miserable about how writing time went this morning. Was I mean or firm? (I decided on firm. I wouldn’t have let another kid goof-off like she was. She thought she could get away with it because I’m her mom.) Either way, I felt terrible.

I pondered how I would respond if she were still upset with me as I drove back to school in the afternoon. Would I apologize? Would we talk it out?

Moments after crossing the threshold of the classroom door, I was greeted by a mega-watt smile and a big hug. Apparently, we were going to just move on!

28 thoughts on “Teaching Your Own Child

  1. Oh, how well you tap into that tug-of-war and the miserable feeling. I’m reminded of a particularly awful morning, dropping my girls off at school with tears in their eyes. I thought of nothing else all day. I even wrote a letter to them and gave it to my classroom aide, who thought I was silly, in case something happened to me…I didn’t want that terrible, horrible morning to be their last memory of me. The hours dragged on until I could see them. When I finally picked them up, I gushed, “Girls, I feel awful about this morning…I began.” My oldest looked alarmed. “Did something happen this morning? Is Papa, O.K.?” Apparently, I’d been the only one stewing all morning.

    1. I had that same thought, Susie. What if something happened to me and this was the way we left things? Awful. I guess all of us skew towards the extreme when we think things are worse than they actually are (& the kids are more resilient).

  2. This reminded me of times I spent at my kids’ preschool. . . it usually didn’t go as well as I imagined it would… Other kids would participate in my activity, and my kid would goof off, show off… not to mention cry when I left. For many years after my daughter had left preschool, I had to really think through any time I had the opportunity to visit her classroom to help… because I knew she would be clingy and very sad when I left. I can clearly remember saying things like “I know you want me to come in for Halloween… are you going to be able to handle it when I leave?”

    Anyway – I think you did a great job! And isn’t it awesome when kids just want to move on? All she’ll remember in the future is how cool it was when mommy came in to write with her and her friends at school!

  3. Oh, this brings back a few memories. It’s tough to wear two hats. And they have a tough time handling the dual roles, too. Love that mega-watt smile that greeted you in the pm!

  4. I have taught my kids on and off, it is always difficult for me as well. In fact my 8 year old Annie told me she doesn’t like me to see her work because I’m so critical. I felt awful, but she is right. I know her so well and I want other people to see her as the smart girl I know at home. It’s hard not to want that. Any way you could volunteer in a different capacity, like at snack time?

    1. I actually want to do the writing work with them. My other trips into the classroom have been much better as far as Isabelle is concerned. I was out last week since I was traveling for work. Not sure if it has anything to do with it. (Maybe I will make believe that it does.)

  5. I think the criticism seems worse because it’s coming from Mommy. The same words from a different adult likely wouldn’t have bothered her as much. I can’t wait to have my kids in my classroom! 😉

  6. I remember one day at homework time my son telling me, “You are a teacher, but you are not my teacher!” How right he was- I could not have been his teacher, yet I understood his feelings (and that of Isabelle’s). You have captured the push and pull of being a teacher-parent well!

  7. My children attended a cooperative preschool, where families helped out once a week. Invariably, they were horrid on my day in the classroom! Developmentally, all that matters to Isabelle is that Mommy love her best – and the sheer subliminal torment of sharing you with others wreaks havoc. Rest assured, she benefits immeasurably from you being there and volunteering (how lucky her teacher is!!!), but I suspect only time/maturity will produce a loving, focused writer while you visit. You are gettting great material for your own writing though!

  8. AWWW, she is just too young to understand the dynamics of the whole situation: sharing you with the other children, watching you in another role, relating to you in another role. At her age all she knows is this i my mommy and I can relate to her just as I would at home. As she gets older she will understand. Sounds like you are doing a great job with her because she came out and gave you a big hug and didn’t skip a beat moving on.

  9. Wearing two hats is one of the most challenging problems for any teacher who is a mother as well. I remember quite a few occasions when I had to struggle with the same concerns as you. It is amazing how our children bounce back. You handled the situation so well! I’m sure Isabelle will appreciate all your teaching and support for her as she grows up! It might take quite a few years!

    1. You’ll be happy to know that she called to me from her play room this morning and asked, “Can you help me think of stories to write?” Of course I agreed. We are going to start a visual “Things I can write about list,” which I told her my big kid students have done she liked the idea of doing something the big kids do (of course)!

  10. Not having kids, I’ve never had to do this. I can relate to how confused kids get when they have their parents and teacher int he same place: worlds collide. She’ll figure it out.

  11. Loved this post, Stacey! In the end I think kids are more resilient than we are! I had experiences like this with my kids. Calling me Mrs. Harmatz was the hardest and they were fifth graders at the time. While I would not do it on a long-term basis, I think having a little experience like this is a good thing for you and Isabelle.

    1. Funny! I have my son when he was in fifth grade for math. He always called me Mom. His friends called me Mom. A new students asked one day – “are all these kids yours?”

  12. I have never faced this problem, not having any children. However, I feel the tug-of-war you were having within yourself. I have worked with teachers who have had their children in class. However, that was sixth grade so it was a whole different ball game.

  13. Oh, it’s so hard! I used to volunteer in Alice’s classroom when she was in Kindergarten and it was hard for her to watch me work with other kids. I was just reviewing my materials for Girls Scout troop leader training and there was a small section in it about coming up with a nickname for the troop leader to try and avoid the “but that’s my mommy” issue that comes up when working with a group of kids that includes your own child. Your comment to Isabelle about thinking of you as Stacey reminded me of that!

  14. Years from now, she will remember that you were there, and that you took a loving interest in her learning life. That’s a gift from you to Isabelle to always cherish.

  15. You did just fine, Stacey. Perhaps Isabelle was a little jealous although she didn’t realize it. I’m going to be visiting Ingrid sometime in class & I wonder how she’ll do. Pushing limits with parents is what kids do. I see it all the time even with my older students when parents are there. I guess they want to see what you will do. I had my mother for both 5th & 6th grade, (small school before I moved to the city) & loved her teaching, although I was always wondering what to call her!

  16. It is REALLY hard to work with your own kid when you’re in their classrooms. Linda’s comment is very wise. While they want you in the classroom, they might not REALLY want you working with anyone but them, even though they know you’re supposed to. In hindsight, all of my girls were happy that I was in their classrooms, but they didn’t always make it easy and fun. #keepgoing!

  17. Once my son, when I was “teaching” him something (as any mother would teach their child), said to me “Would you stop being a teacher and just be my mom?” I swear (I think) I was just teaching like any mother would! Sigh. I had to always be careful not to be too critical. Such a fine line even at home!

I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s