Do Parents Make Better Teachers? (Part 1)

This question has lots of answers and could be taken a lot of different ways–and could actually be quite controversial. I’m going to answer from my own experience (which is obviously all I can do), and in no way mean to offend or exclude anyone or any group of people. It’s just something I was thinking about a little bit ago and wondered what others thought.  So, that being said, I’m going to answer my own question: I make a better teacher since I’ve been a parent.

Alright, now let me explain…😊

I started my teaching career about 16 years ago, after having an amazing student-teaching experience with some pretty amazing 2nd graders and their even more amazing teacher (who has since become one of my dearest friends and important mentors–thanks, Heidi!).  I walked into a well-established community of learners who cared about each other, worked together as a team and wanted to “put their best feet forward.”  I remember them always talking about how stretching their brains and helping them grow.

I finished my student-teaching placement in December, and was fortunate to find a part-time opportunity (through a grant) for the Spring semester.  Because I was in the right place at the right time, I was aware of (and then offered!) my own classroom for the next fall.  I was on my way to my dream of being a teacher, a dream I had had since I was 6 years old.

So in the fall of 2001, I began with my very own classroom of 1st graders.  I wish that I could say that I walked into that room (Rm. 106 if I remember right), and did everything right.  HA!!  I am pretty sure I made every mistake that was possible without anyone getting hurt or making anybody mad. Oh, wait, I probably did make people mad.  I know for sure that discipline was the hardest part for me, and that while I was very prepared academically and teaching-wise, there’s not anything that can truly prepare you for the classroom management part of teaching than doing it.  That one class in college isn’t real life.  But wow–I learned SO MUCH by being there, making mistakes and figuring out what worked.  And what didn’t.

Alright, I’m gonna fast-forward through the next 15 years since this post isn’t really about my teaching journey.  And because I know how I write, if I’m not careful a post like that could end up taking you 15 years to read!  So after that first, formative year, I taught 1st again the next one, and then we looped together to 2nd for another year together (and I do have to stop for a second here and say wow–that was kind of like heaven that 2nd year with 2nd graders and only 16 kiddos!).  After that I went back to 1st grade, which was way harder than I had thought it would be.  They were such babies!

Ok…up to year 5.  That year I had the opportunity (and desire) to change grade levels and so my good friend (and mentor and super amazing teaching partner Michelle) went to 4th grade together.  I thought I would NEVER teach “big” kids but fell in love with what they were able to do with the foundation that I and fellow primary teachers had built many years before.  I stayed in 4th grade for 5 years, and then moved again to 5th grade.  5th grade became my new favorite (which I also NEVER thought was possible) and I taught many fabulous 10-11 year olds for 4 years.

Are you keeping up?  That’s 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 4th, 4th, 4th, 4th, 4th, 5th, 5th, 5th, 5th.

In 2014, I needed a change again, and by the calendar it was about time for one, so I went mostly willingly, back to 1st grade.  That brings us to the present, where I am enjoying each and every day teaching most of those same 1st graders (plus a few new super ones!) as 2nd graders in Rm. 202.  So add 1st, 2nd to that list up there.

Yeah, but what does that have to do with parents making better teachers?  Let me tell you, in terms of things I’ve learned (or at least understand better) since I’ve been a mama.

  1. In 2007, I was blessed with my first baby.  He was big, beautiful and always crying.  Ok, only for the first few months.  Then he mellowed out and acted like a normal baby.  But once I went back to work I learned about how parents have to balance work/family life and still maintain a positive attitude.  I learned that no matter how little sleep I got or how late baby made me for work, or how frustrated I was because I had to go to school with spit up on my shirt I had a job to do.  I still had a classroom full of kiddos counting on me to do my best job for them so they could do their best job for themselves.  Just like all the other mommies and daddies of those kiddos who also have a job to do when their own kiddos make them crazy or late or have to wear a dirty shirt.
  2. Through those first few years I also learned just how hard it is to give your babies over to someone to take care of.  I remember the first day I sent Riley to the babysitter, terrified about what might happen.  Not because I actually thought anything would, but because I just didn’t know.  To this day, I owe Tara J. a world of thanks for sending me a really quick email early that morning that just said, “Wanted you to know everything is going just fine.  He’s had a bottle and we’re playing and having lots of fun.  Thought you might be worried.”  What a difference that little bit of communication made in my well-being, as well as my ability to trust her fully from the very beginning. I was leaving my pride-and-joy in her hands–that’s really scary!!–but she made it less scary.  That feeling and that email helped me learn that communication is so critical to helping parents feel comfortable with leaving their precious cargo with you.  Just like I needed reassurance from T, many families in my own classroom have felt uneasy about that hand-off, and it’s my job to help ease the fears, help them to trust me that I will care for their babies like their my own. Ok, or their big kids like my own, too, I guess.  Those 4th and 5th graders wouldn’t have loved being called babies.
  3. Alright, fast forward again to 2010 when baby #2 came into our lives.  She was a little smaller, also beautiful and didn’t cry as much. But instead she didn’t sleep.  For like 6 weeks.  And still doesn’t.  Ok, I digress…but what I learned with this one was that it is possible–although a little harder–to be a working mom of two kids.  It meant double the fun and double the struggle, but also double the joy and wonder that comes with a baby and a preschooler.  This was the time when I learned what it was like to again leave your little one in the hands of someone else.  This time, though, instead of a babysitter, it was a teacher.  I quickly learned that in many ways that’s even scarier than just taking them to someone’s home.  And the connection and communication I made and had with Riley’s preschool teacher solidified many things for me.  It reminded me of that trust that was needed by both of us, but also how terrible it feels on the other end when you get a phone call or an email from school.  Even if it’s a good one.  Just seeing the school’s phone number or reading an email that says “I need to talk to you when you have a minute” is enough to send your anxiety into overdrive and make all the butterflies in a 3-state area ascend on your stomach all at once.  I can laugh at it now, but it suddenly remembered all of those same phone calls and emails I’d sent as a teacher all those years and I felt a little silly.  I think since then I’ve learned that lesson and at least changed my wording. I think.

To be continued…

Picture of the Day: April 29, 2015

If you are a friend in Rm. 202, this picture needs no explanation.  But, since most of you have not been spending your weekdays from 8:30-3:40 with a room full of 1st graders, I’ll let you know what this pic is so wonderful.  But first I’ll show it to you. 🙂

Our brave friend, Diego, broke his arm on Monday. 😦  He was gone recovering yesterday and WE MISSED HIM SO MUCH!!  It was so special when he returned today and the class was so happy to see him.  Then it got even better when this afternoon we were talking about our roses, buds and thorns for the day, and most everyone’s rose (their favorite thing from the day) was that their friend was back and that they knew he was ok. 🙂  I was also super impressed when, after receiving a big ‘ole pile of get-well-soon cards from us, Diego asked for everyone’s attention so he could say thank you to them all for being so kind to him (used the microphone and the official attention-getting signal and everything!).  I am not kidding when I tell you I have the BEST CLASS IN THE WHOLE, WIDE WORLD!! 🙂

Pictures of the Day: April 28, 2015

Ok, I feel like I should give a warning before I start this one: this post will be a little bit indulgent.  And it will explain why I couldn’t post this update last night.  Here. Maybe this will help:

It’s been a long time coming, but I graduated with my Masters of Science in Education. The focus was on Curriculum and Instruction.  While in some ways I wish I could have finished this long ago, I am actually super excited that my kids and hubby got to share the night with me.  He shared the whole program with me, too, he’ll have his own graduation night later on. 🙂

Wish I could have gotten a better picture of me with this super smart guy (that’s a LONG story I won’t bother you with), but I had to post it anyway, because it means so much to me. This is my baby brother, who is in most ways smarter and wiser than me. I love that he’s proud of me, though, and that he was there to share this important night with me. LOVE YOU, CHUCK!!  

What important life event in 2015 isn’t documented with a selife? Pretty sure they all are. So we had to do the same. There is something that I LOVE about this picture. Mostly the people in it, but also because we are all so happy, and also just the fact that it’s a little off-center (because I probably am a little like that, too). 🙂

Picture (and Video!) of the Day: April 27, 2015

Welcome to a new week!  Let’s get started with some super pictures.  This week’s gonna be a good one. 🙂

IMG_4474We have been working on a design challenge in science lately (more later!), and this picture is of some friends working on it.  Even better, it’s a picture of first graders independently documenting their learning with videos explaining how their design works.  Amazing.  It’s cool when 5th graders do it, but when you’re 6 and 7YO and you can do that, somehow it seems better.  And now that we’re all 1:1 in KSD, it’ll continue to happen over and over.  What will these friends look like with tech and learning when they’re in 5th grade?  I’m excited to find out!

Here’s a video of this same work:

Can’t wait to share more!  Have a great week, friends!

First Grade Math-Warm Ups: Week of April 20-23, 2015

This was a short week with only 4 school days anyhow, and I was gone for one of those, so only 2 warm-ups this week, friends.  Still working on data collection….


The warm-up for this morning directly tied to our work in Math, as it was the basis for a formative assessment.  We had been working on collecting, organizing and analyzing data for many days in whole group and partner situations, and it was time to try it on their own.  It’s hard to see, but there are names signed on each side of the t-chart.  We skipped the post-its on this day to make sure the data didn’t change before we could analyze it (we do this EARLY in the day and hours pass before we talk about it).

IMG_4469Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

Ok, so we really didn’t spend 3 days doing this one, but with a strange week, we did it on Tuesday morning, but didn’t have a chance to discuss it until Thursday afternoon.  The conversation we had around the analysis is documented on the sheet; the post-its were how we “voted.”  This is good stuff here. 🙂


Pictures of the Day–April 23, 2015

What a great day back with my friends in Rm. 202!  Besides being a BEAUTIFUL Thursday, we also enjoyed another Walker’s Club day, as well as A.C.E.S. Day, which is a Robinson favorite every Spring.  A.C.E.S. stands for All Children Exercising Simultaneously, and I found out today it’s a 15 year tradition at our school (which is actually almost as long as I’ve been teaching there–I hadn’t realized it started at the same time!).  Here’s a pic from our fun today:


Ok, so to be fair, it’s not actually from our festivities, but is inspired by them. Sara got to participate in Mrs. Clark’s A.C.E.S. Day routine to the song “Jump” and got some pretty great glasses as a result. Awesome, right? 🙂

For more on how Robinson can shake their booties, have a lot of fun and be healthy, check out teh link to our Facebook page here.  There’s a video and a TON of pictures to enjoy!  I was too busy moving and grooving I didn’t get ANYTHING to share.  Unbelieveable, right?  Luckily pretty much EVERYONE else had a phone or a camera. 🙂

I have one more picture, and I guess actually it’s more a number than a picture, but it’s this:

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 9.01.50 PM

That’s our new Walker’s Club total for the April Competition.  I’m amazed and impressed with our steady work towards a goal of winning recess and popsicles (plus having fun and getting healthy!)!  Keep it up, Rm. 202 kids!

Picture of the Day–April 22, 2015

While I’d love to say I have inspiring pictures of my class saving the world and having great fun on Earth Day, alas I was at home with a sick kiddo today, and so my pictures aren’t even from Rm. 202 today. 😦

Instead, I have one of me and my boy.  My coughing-all-over-me and sniffling-all-day boy with whom I spent the day.  And yes, he’s trying to look pitiful.  Me, not so much, but it might have happened anyway. 🙂  Tomorrow will be better, friends, and include smiles from Rm. 202 kids (and hopefully me, too!). 🙂


Pictures of the Day: April 21, 2015

Have you seen this feature yet?  I was TOTALLY into last week, but so far this week I keep forgetting I am supposed to post a picture.  That’s what I get for trying to go all in.  Oh well, here are a couple of pictures that tell today’s story:


This pic kind of tells it all about what happened today: we worked for a long time on a design challenge, which started with solving a problem about how to organize the materials. We solve lots of problems together in Rm. 202, and often it happens on that red rug. 🙂


More of our wonderful mess! And I wasn’t going to post this HORRIBLE picture of me, but it tells one more part of today’s story: I ran 5 laps for Rm. 202 in Walker’s Club today (hence my rolled up jeans because I was so hot!). Everyone did a CRAZY GOOD job today with racking up lots of miles for our team. 🙂


One more: I couldn’t NOT share this pic of C.J.’s huge smile as he got started on designing something to help take care of his baby meerkat. Love it!

First Grade Math Warm-Ups: Week of April 13-17, 2015

Just like the focus several weeks ago was Walker’s Club, and last week’s were about data, these are data-focused as well.


This one was kind of a freebie, but was supposed to get kiddos ready for the work we’d do later on in the day (which really is the focus of how the Math Warm-Ups are meant to work anyway. 🙂 ).

IMG_4454 Wednesday

The warm-up on Wednesday was a little different from previous ones lately, whereas instead of them collecting the data, kids were asked to analyze the data and tell what they have learned from the data I’ve given them.

IMG_4453 Thursday

This one’s all about the chart Mrs. Appelbaum shared with us about the many ways we can represent the data we collect (which is exactly what kiddos would be doing later in the day!).  This one got them thinking early in the day, and also served as the introduction to our math lesson.

IMG_4452  Friday

This one, you can tell, is not about data (directly), but IS about Walker’s Club laps and is a SUPER HARD one for first graders (our benchmark for addition is 2-digit numbers up to 100).  But you know what?  They TOTALLY KNEW WHAT TO DO!!  Those strategies we learned and used for 2-digit numbers?  They work for hundreds, too!  Way to go, Rm. 202 kiddos.  But you know what? I’m not surprised.  You’re pretty much always awesome. 🙂