Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Heart of a Teaching Mom

Yesterday, while dashing back to school from a meeting at the district, I listened to a radio essay (for which I've just failed miserably to find a link) which contained the quote from Elizabeth Stone, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

I want to take that one step further. To be a teacher is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around in hundreds of bodies.

I don't think it's just me. I think it happens to many parents who are teachers. Our hearts break, bend, tear, expand, fill with joy or anxiety or pride or love or despair for our own children as well as for our "children", our students.

It's why we teach, it's why each day is so rich and full, it's why it's so hard to say good-bye when they go off to another school or another class at the end of the year.

This year, we decided to let the fifth graders lead their own conferences. This changed the entire dynamic of the conference. What was especially new to me was the opportunity to sit and see my pride and hope mirrored on my students' parents' faces. Usually, I don't get to see the parents too often, interacting with their kids. Usually, it's just me, watching their kids and feeling that pride (or frustration, or pain, or excitement) alone.

Then there was the one conference that didn't go the way I hoped it would go. The joy and pride weren't there on the parent's faces. There was only criticism and defeat. Yet this was a child for whom there was so much to celebrate. His reading and writing have improved, he is a hard worker, he is a caring and thoughtful friend to other kids in the class, he never gives up - even though many school tasks are very challenging.

Listening to the derision and watching the child's posture slump noticeably with each barb, and not knowing how to protect him full time from something I only glimpsed for half an hour was one of the most heartbreaking experiences I've had as a teacher.

The pain was no different from watching my own child being treated unfairly. Actually, maybe it's worse because I feel less able to do anything about it.

Happy Mother's Day - to all who feel a mother's feelings for those who need us.


  1. Loved this and ache for the child whose parents haven't found their way to seeing their wonderful child. Hope you have a great Mother's Day.

  2. I have read each one of the perceptive blogs you have created, and each one has given me insights into the parent/teacher in the person of a sensitive teacher. This last one brought home the feeling that every parent has when they see a hurt and cannot do anything to make it better.
    And this on Mother's Day. Thanks!