Or perhaps we should also ask whether being a teacher makes you a better parent?
I once had a complaining parent who said that she didn’t want her daughter taught by a teacher who didn’t have children.
Yes, that actually happened.
I was the teacher in question and it was a ‘Meet Your New Teacher’ afternoon. The idea was in the summer term we would meet the parents of our new September class to touch base and say hello.
It was a nightmare because the parent in question just asked me outright, “Do you have children of your own?”
I mean really, that’s a bit private. Back then I didn’t have children. I’d just started teaching and having a family wasn’t on my radar. So when I said that I was flying solo then her face changed and not for the better.
Teachers shouldn’t be subjected to this but they are and I was. I heard through the grapevine that she thought only the best teachers were those that had had sleepless nights, changed nappies and been to theme parks.
It got me thinking. Are childless teachers actually just playing at being a teacher and really have no idea about the inner-workings of a little person?
I began to wonder whether my colleagues who had been there, done that and got the T-shirt actually were better because of having families. The all looked knackered and haggard to me so I doubted whether they were.
I didn’t exactly have bags of surplus energy but I thought how hard it must be to be a teacher with a family, especially a young one.
And one day I found out. When my daughter was born then I soon realised that being a new parent makes you the worst teacher in the building because you are zonked. Your patience is non-existent and you are tetchy and borderline psychotic.
Having a wee one knocks the stuffing out of you and your job suffers too. For teaching you needs bags of energy and if you are a parent running on a couple of hours broken sleep then face the prospect of a full day with 30 children belonging to other people and a pointless staff meeting until 5:30pm then forget it – you will be a crap teacher.
So no, being a new parent doesn’t make you a better teacher, it makes you a liability. You can’t think straight and some days you lose the will.
And what about as they grow up, surely that makes you more in tune with the needs of children and how they go about their learning?
No it doesn’t. I used to laugh when others told me that “Each child is different” but they were right, they are. They are far from similar in any respect and your mum or dad powers won’t translate effortlessly to match the needs of everyone else. Don’t kid yourself thinking you are better at teaching fractions because you have experienced success with your own child.
And you will still be knackered but it will be a different brand and flavour of knackeredness.
Being a parent offers you no extra insights or tricks you can use because the ‘skills’ you might think you possess are just basically survival ones. Besides, the kids you teach aren’t yours and your relationship is totally different. What’s really dangerous is when teachers start comparing their own children to those in their class and saying, “My Emily can do this so I’m sure you can Rihanna!”
So, back to Mrs Winters. Did I eventually teacher her daughter? Yes, the Head told her I was a “cracking teacher” and her daughter would have a great year. I was flattered although “cracking teacher” means someone entirely different these days.
Her daughter did have a great year and I made sure she got special treatment….just like everyone else in the class did too. I saved the best for my own daughter.
At the end of the year, Mrs Winters said she was wrong about teachers who didn’t have children. She said those that do “haven’t got the same amount of energy”.
Every day is a school day.