I have had the experience of being a teacher pre-momhood and mid-momhood. I haven’t yet experienced being a teacher post-momhood, but I’m sure it’s a stage all in itself.
And, as a teacher in those different stages of my life, I have recognized that I am a far different teacher in my current phase, mid-momhood, than I was in my last phase, pre-momhood.
Let me explain.
I was first hired as an eighth grade English teacher in 1997 at the ripe old age of twenty-two. I agonized over my lesson plans and my room arrangement. I followed every policy of the school to a tee. I called, emailed, and wrote notes to parents. I threw myself passionately into different thematic units that I prepared for my students. With each new unit, I entirely transformed my classroom. I had creative components for each unit. I had guest speakers out the wazoo. Once I even had a guy with a domesticated wolf come and show his wolf to my class while we were reading Call of the Wild. My students won essay writing contests and poetry contests. I utilized technology in every way I could possibly conceive, which in the late 90’s mainly consisted of desktop computers and video cameras. I pretty much rocked my pre-momhood teaching experience.
And then I had kids.
I took a break from teaching for a few years. I had three babies. I made bottles, changed diapers, went grocery shopping, made a menu for the week, clipped coupons, cleaned my house, set up the blue plastic kiddie pool, planned birthday parties, volunteered at church, cleaned the high chair about a million times, took a zillion trips to the library, played at the park, and in general, had the time of my life.
Then I went back to teaching.
When I went back to teaching, I had a new perspective. You see, I had experienced teaching my own child to read. I had experienced having my own child in a stranger’s classroom. I had experienced the pride of a 100% on my child’s spelling test. I had experienced homework. I had experienced reading logs. I had experienced little league. I had experienced a child with a lower than grade level reading level. I had experienced the pain of rejection vicariously through my son. I had experienced the pain of “not getting it” of “not being noticed” of “not being the teacher’s pet” of “no one in class likes me” of “too much homework” of messy backpacks, of not the right type of clothes, of money needed for lunch, money needed for fundraiser, money needed for pictures, money needed for weekly ice cream, money needed for art supplies, money needed for the carnival, money needed for the jog-a-thon, money needed for the field trip.
And it changed me. It had changed the way I taught.
It was entirely unintentional. I didn’t plan it or think about it at all, but when I went back to teaching in my mid-momhood stage, I suddenly had a new perspective, a new insight. For some reason, I no longer punished students for not having a pencil. I just loaned them one of mine. (They usually don’t give it back, but I’ve learned that spending about a dollar a week on pencils is worth it.) Inexplicably, I started keeping a basket of candy in my classroom and rewarding students for good behavior, good grades, and just for no reason at all. I don’t know why, but I also started keeping granola bars in my desk for those students who didn’t happen to get breakfast that morning. I started giving hugs. I started writing notes to my students on their papers.
Here is an example of the type of notes I’ve started writing on my students’ papers –
“I think you are so awesome! Hey, next time could you please write complete sentences when you answer these questions? Thank you so much, June Bug!”
I don’t know what happened to me. I hadn’t attended a conference or a seminar. I had not received a big pep talk from my principal.
Oh, and the biggest change of all . . . I stopped assigning homework. (Yep)
Now, before you get all angry and start thinking that I think mid-momhood teachers are the best teachers in the world and pre-momhood or non-momhood teachers are crappy, hear me out. As a mid-momhood teacher, I no longer have time to agonize over lesson plans. I decorate my classroom at the beginning of the year, and it stays that way all year. I haven’t had one guest speaker. (Human or wolf) I don’t always incorporate technology or creative assignments. So, me as a pre-momhood teacher was definitely better in some areas than me as a mid-momhood teacher. These days I sometimes run a little low on energy, passion, creativity, and new ideas. But, these days I have a boundless supply of compassion, grace, understanding, and concern for my students that I never had before. And, the coolest thing is, my students can tell.
In a few years, I will more than likely experience post-momhood teaching. I have a feeling that will be a real kick in the pants.