Before having children, when I was a full-time class teacher, I’d quite harshly put parents into categories. They weren’t ones which I’d talk about out loud of course, indeed even my normally politically correct brain would refrain me from fully acknowledging them to myself, but they were there. There was “that kind” of parent or “that type”. And who were the worse? The ones I feared most by far were those who started the term with an, “As a teacher…” sentence.
Well, I’ll tell you that, as a teacher, and now a parent, I’m yet to utter those 3 poisoned words in any setting I’ve taken my children to. Sure, it comes up, it’s no secret. When I had phonics explained to me I let it slip that I did understand a little about that, and two and two was added and equalled to “oh God another annoying teacher parent”. Square that by, “let’s hope she won’t interfere”!
There was another instant when, at a pre-school my son went to, one of the practitioners said; “Are you a teacher?” I thought she must have noticed my fabulous interaction with the children, my expert, child-centred chit chat each morning. I said “yes, how did you know?” blushing, ready for the compliment. “Oh, just that you called a water apron a water apron”. Yep, I know all about aprons, me.
But I know, on this front at least, I’m not a nightmare parent. I don’t interfere, I’m positive and say things like, “sorry, I know you’re really busy” and “don’t worry it’s fine”. These sentences trip off the tongue almost obsessively, trying to compensate for the fact that they know I’m a teacher and they know (as do I) what that can mean.
On the Home Front though, I am basically a nightmare parent. Whilst I know all about learning through play, and vehemently advocate the less target-driven approach to a holistic education, give me a list of spellings and one of my off-spring and I’m off, absorbed into a teaching approach last seen somewhere mid last century.
Some time last term, when a mere babe of a Year 1, my daughter was sent home with a list of spellings that I glanced at and tutted at profusely (still in nice, non-pushy mode) thinking, “Mountain?? Dolphin?? Elephant? Why on earth does she need to know these words? Not exactly easy. Not even useful for that matter.
100 metres later, at my front door to be precise, I was in a fluster. I was going to make her know those words come Monday. It was so important she knew how to spell mountain, I realised that now. Cancel ballet lessons, cancel the play-date, postpone the fun, it’s /m/ /ou/ /n/ /t/ai//n/ and nothing else this weekend.
I don’t know what it is. Why I can be one kind of teacher (and as a writer on education I’ve often been referred to as “hippy dippy” and “lefty” – badges I’ll wear with pride) yet when it comes to my flesh and blood, I’m only just short of using a dunce cap!
I have friends who’ve home schooled. The negative comments you hear around this notion is that it’s far too relaxed; no structure, too laissez faire all round. Not in my gaff. The only reason I couldn’t’ contemplate home schooling would be because I actually quite like my children and wouldn’t want to subject them to my stricter than strict approach that’s induce only by the combination of their mere presence and an educational activity.
But with this new term approaching, I’m going to endeavour to practise (at home) what I preach (professionally). My kids won’t recognise this new “Homework? But what about our den building?” other Mother, dressed in their evil authoritarian Mother’s clothes.
I’ll let you know how I go. Best get back to the kids, the 3 year old hasn’t finished his 7 times tables.