When I grew up, teachers ran the classroom and parents stepped back, but a lot has changed in thirty years. COVID hit schools hard, closing them down and forcing parents to become teachers. Most schools are again open, but parents found that their children learn better when education is a three-legged stool: Parents, teachers, and kids.
Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Drew Allen, is an active working parent with some ideas on the new reality of parents-as-educators:
If you’re a teacher and you have children yourself, you face a somewhat different set of challenges than parents who aren’t teachers or teachers without children. Whether you work at the elementary level, with older kids or college students, managing the responsibilities you have to kids both at work and at home can be daunting. However, there are several things you can do to make this easier. If you aren’t an educator, many of the tips below will still apply.
There can be something whiplash inducing about bouncing between the role of teacher talking to parents and parent talking to teachers. Even as you know there are certain behaviors that you dislike in a parent during a conference, you can find yourself displaying them yourself. Above all, you may know how unhelpful it is as a parent to lean on your professional authority when you’re talking to other teachers about your kid. Resist this temptation or you could end up pushing the educator away, leaving them reluctant to involve you further in your child’s education. It’s also important that you give the educator authority when your child asks for help with their homework or other tasks. Of course, you can help them, but try to defer to their teacher unless there is some good reason not to.
Dealing with Boundaries
It can be tough to go from managing a classroom of kids all day to managing a house full of kids in your own home. After a long day of explaining fractions, you may not feel as patient and helpful as you probably should when your own child thrusts a worksheet of fractions under your nose. You may want to talk to your partner about handing off some education-related tasks to them to help you separate your two roles more cleanly.
One big area where boundaries and communication about those boundaries may be necessary is if you are working at your child’s school. Talk to your kid about what kind of interaction is comfortable for them. Find out whether they would rather ask their own instructor about general school-related questions that arise or if they’d be happy to ask you. It’s rarely easy for a kid to attend the school where one or both parents work, but good communication can help.
Preparing for College
Whether you work with six-year-olds or college kids yourself, you are probably thinking about how to prepare your child for their own college education. This is another place where boundaries matter. How much do they want to talk to you about it versus their school counselor and teachers? In particular, if you’re a college professor, it can be hard not to overwhelm them with advice. It isn’t that you shouldn’t tell them anything at all, but try to stick to answering their questions rather than pushing advice on them.
One of the biggest ways you can help prepare them is by making sure that they have the financial resources they need. This might mean helping them find scholarships they could apply for. You could also take out private parent loans. You can utilize Earnest parent loans as one type that can give you the chance to take the burden of student loan payments off your child.
It can be tough to balance being an effective teacher and parent. Knowing others who are in the same position can be helpful. There’s also a big element of letting go of what is out of your control. This can be difficult when it’s your own class, but it can be especially hard when it’s anything to do with your child. Ultimately, you can’t control what their teacher does. You need to focus on what you can control, which is how you react to those things.
Every teacher struggles with prioritizing the school day schedule. It’s especially difficult in the early days of teaching, but even if you’re a veteran educator, balancing family life and your job is difficult. It can be especially hard to deal with the demands of being an educator because you really could throw an unlimited amount of energy at it, and this is true of your family as well. It’s important to keep your own needs and limitations in mind and remember that you are not solely responsible for either your students or your family’s needs. With this in mind, you need to establish priorities both in your classroom and when it comes to what your children needs at different stages throughout their lives. This will help you manage your time more effectively.
Drew Allen is a financial enthusiast, seasoned blogger, music and sports fanatic. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and daughter fishing and boating. He is dedicated to his 20+ year career in the banking, mortgage, and personal finance industry.
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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.