Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On Teaching and Parenting

I had a conversation this morning with a friend about teaching (our school district is trying to come up with the funds to continue having paraprofessionals in the kindergarten and first grade classrooms, which I think is essential) and then I went to yoga at noon, where two different teachers shared teaching the class. So while I was lying on my back at the end of class, I was thinking about the way that good teaching is both an art and a science, and about how I continue to be surprised that I am not a better parent, because I was a very good teacher. And isn't parenting just teaching on a much smaller, much more continuous scale?

Don't get me wrong, I had a few extra-specially difficult kids in classrooms over the years, but even then I never became completely unwound by the difficulties. I put in my very best effort and knew, somehow, that my very best effort would have to be enough, that there was nothing more I could do. Maybe in parenting, we're too close to the source, too constantly surrounded by the "pupils," and too attached to the outcome to be as level-headed. In any case, I never yelled. I never lost my temper. I never went into another room to cry or lay awake at night going over where it had all gone so wrong.

This is not to say that parenting the girls lately has been completely joyless. In every day there are moments of satisfaction and goodness, and I try to focus on those. I try to take the long view, to have some perspective that things will not always be this way. (Swistle, again, putting my thoughts into words.)
When that fails, there is always commiserating with girlfriends, running, drinking, getting out of the house, or going to sleep and pinning my hopes on the fact that the morning will bring a clean slate and a fresh start. But it hasn't really been a party for me lately, and I'm wishing I could channel a bit of Wise Teacher Stephanie to tell Frazzled Parent Stephanie what to do.

Back to lying on my back after yoga: I'm thinking about teaching. I'm thinking that I used to love teaching the same units and skills and information to new students every year, the way I did at Cranbrook, because the fresh crop of students every year ensures that the experience is different. I'm thinking, too, that there's probably satisfaction in teaching new skills and information to the same students, the way my instructor does at the yoga studio, because the continuity of learners lets you see people progress in their practice.

same information + new students = fun, satisfying teaching experience
new information + same students = fun, satisfying teaching experience
but you know what sucks?
same information + same students = unsatisfying, frustrating teaching experience
And what situation most closely mirrors that?

Parenting. Especially the kind of parenting I'm largely doing these days, the kind where you keep saying the words, modeling the behavior, providing the information, encouraging the skills, and yet it's a Groundhog's Day situation of the same frustrations happening again and again.

Maybe I need to switch up my material. It's either that or switch up the kids, I guess.

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