Becoming a Parent After Being a Teacher

September 19, 2010 at 2:34 pm 5 comments

posted by Tracy Wiessbrod ’03, kindergarten teacher and stay-at-home mom

“Oh, you teach Kindergarten… you’ll be the best mom ever.”  Really?  Is it possible to know too much about child development?  Becoming a parent after having been a teacher for 7 years sometimes seems harder than doing it the other way around.  When I follow my natural maternal instinct, I watch myself and notice what I did wrong.  When I follow my teacher knowledge, I realize I should relax and enjoy my time with my baby.  I think too much!  “Why did I just put the pacifier in her mouth? She can do that herself – I should have put it in her hand…”

The reality of parenting – the feelings I’ve never experienced before (like never wanting my baby to be upset, so giving her everything she wants immediately), as well as the sleep deprivation and time constraints of this exhausting first year – are much different than the ideals of parenting I developed after studying at Bank Street and being a teacher.

I realize that as a teacher, I didn’t give parents the benefit of the doubt enough.  In the nature versus nurture debate, I too often chose nurture.  Is there any way for a teacher who doesn’t have children to fully understand what a parent experiences?  Is there any way to get somewhere closer to that, at least?  None of the professional development in the school where I worked addressed that.

Actually, at this point I’m more concerned with my parenting than my teaching.  Confidence and calmness (in addition to love, of course) are two key ingredients in good parenting.  I’m too self-reflective and would like to stop questioning my actions.  Is there a way to help teachers who have children distinguish (or align – I’m not sure which) their two roles?

In the end, I know that I am an amazing mother and I know that my current experiences will enhance my future work with children and parents…but I do wish I wouldn’t be so hard on myself sometimes.  I would love to hear if other parents/teachers have experienced the same thing…and if they found a way not to overanalyze and just to cherish this time.

Tracy Wiessbrod graduated from Bank Street’s Early Childhood and Elementary Education program in December 2003 and made a commencement speech in June 2004.  She taught 1st grade in New York until she moved to Los Angeles.  There she taught Kindergarten and 2nd grade for 5 years at a small private school.  Tracy is the West Coast Alumni Representative and always holds Bank Street close to her heart. She is currently a stay-at-home mother pursuing a Library Teacher credential.

Entry filed under: dialogue, families.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Meredith Hairston  |  September 29, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I have so awaited the day when I could comment on this important topic. Thank you Tracy for raising the issue. I have just entered the parenting world after having taught parents and children for 10 years. I had my baby girl September 10th and I am home on maternity leave until January. Even in two weeks worth of time I have had the feelings of being at odds with my intuition and my understanding of development. So far, I’m focusing on my intuition and listening to my baby. This powerful recognition has already allowed me to come closer to understanding how parents feel about their child’s needs. As educators we often see a child’s needs as objective and within the classroom context, which can be completely foreign to what parents know about their children.

    Each day my eyes continue to reopen to this beautiful child and I am challenged with many of the feelings I have come to know through the parents I have know throughout the years. Teaching children has given me insights into other peoples lives but certainly has not prepared me for my own challenges as a parent. I will continue to learn from my child as I do from the children I teach, but the experiences I will face will challenge my heart more than my brain. Thanks again Tracy for the post!

    Meredith Hairston
    ECE 2007

  • 2. Alisha Sela  |  September 29, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Just wait until your child starts school and enters Kindergarten (being one of the grades you taught). It’s a hard thing to try to be the kind of parent you wished you had in your class, while still wishing the teacher was the kind of teacher you are!

  • 3. Lisa Gershon  |  September 29, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    I just wanted to say that I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. I too taught kindergarten before becoming a stay at home mom and I remember everyone saying that I would be the best mom. In the beginning I do remember thinking way too much about everything. Now that my children are 5 and 2 I probably don’t think enough about each decision!

    I also agree with you about the nature/nurture. I almost always assumed it was nurture and now that I am a mom I think it is much more about nature. Having two completely different children of my own really points to nature even more!

  • 4. Allison Warren  |  January 18, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Now that I am a parent, I can’t help but see my little boy in every set of eyes that look at me in school. I have a new respect for treating children and their families the same way I hope my family is treated. Becoming a parent has definitely made me a better teacher. Becoming a teacher has made me a thoughtful mom. Now… How do you balance those two roles and throw in additional roles: wife, friend, sibling, and daughter?!?

  • 5. Jackie  |  January 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    What a great post, Tracy! You describe so well the inner struggle many of us teacher-parents feel.

    As a parent, it becomes so much clearer how important those early years are. My oldest is almost 8 and I still think about the potential developmental by-products of so many ordinary decisions. Though I must say, when she was about 5, I sat back and started to notice that my influence was starting to wane, and that any values she had learned from me were already in place.

    Please write again, and give us an update on how parenting is going for you, and whether your perspective has changed at all. It will give people another opportunity to discuss this important topic.

    Thanks, Tracy!

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