Stories and thoughts about family and life

Reluctant Teachers

on December 12, 2013

As I screamed, and I mean SCREAMED at my 12 year old son two nights ago, “Do you know what my job is? It’s to raise you as a well-functioning adult. One who can keep commitments, follow-through, be trustworthy and responsible, and live a productive life,” the words I uttered struck a new chord with me as well. My son sat and stared at me, with a tear rolling down his cheek. This was not the first time we had similar conversations (if you can call this a conversation), and I fear it won’t be the last.

I went with a friend of mind the other night to run some errands. She was visiting a rent house where she is the landlord and needed to check in on some repairs. As I stood outside waiting on her to finish, I visited with the children of the family living in the rental property. “Are you a teacher?” this adorable little boy, around age six, with round cheeks and even rounder eyes questioned, “‘Cause you look just like a teacher.” I literally laughed out loud. Me? A teacher? That really IS funny! I don’t have the patience for that! I couldn’t possibly stand in front of classrooms and deal with entire groups of kids as stubborn and disinterested as my 12 year old is sometimes. I wouldn’t be able to listen to the endless “I can’t” diatribes which come from my now 11 year old. Me, a teacher?? No way! I politely said “no, I’m not a teacher, but I’m sure my kids would think it’s funny that you see me that way.”

As I listened to myself having this conversation with Luke, that sweet little rounded-cheek boy appeared in my mind, and it hit me. Well, yes, I am a teacher. I’m not a teacher by profession, but I am a teacher. Not to put down my teacher friends who have chosen this profession, because I honestly could NOT do what you do all day, but I was reminded in that instant that we’re all teachers. We all have our lessons to teach, whether it’s about doing chores, or learning a craft, or managing money, or being a good friend. When I look at it in those respects, my children have learned most of their lessons exceptionally well. They’re both tender-hearted, sweet boys who will give up their own money to make a kid less fortunate happy in the arcade or local pizza place. They love doing service projects and volunteering with us (well, maybe “love” is a strong word, but they do rather enjoy it). Brennan saw the annual toy drive on the news the other morning and was extra motivated to get us all out of the house so we could go to Wal-Mart and buy a toy for these less fortunate kids. I see those things and I’m so proud of the young men I’m raising.

I criticize myself after I have one of these conversations with Luke, especially when I feel like all we’ve done is fight for 30 minutes. I hear “yes ma’am” and know that he’s tuning me out and just wants me to shut up. I see so much potential in him, and I don’t want him to squander it. I finally explained to him the other night that my parents were hard on me in school too. Granted, they didn’t have to have these little “chats” like we do, but it was understood that I was not permitted anything lower than a B, except in math. I went on to explain that because of the trust they placed in me for that, I sought out my own tutoring for math from my teacher, who was always interested in helping a student who cared enough to ask. I told him that if I had been able to get through school with the intelligence he already has at this age, the world would have been my oyster. Now, I’m relatively smart, and I was ambitious, so please don’t think I’m putting myself down for his benefit. I struggled through some of my classes (especially math-based ones) with almost a handicap. I didn’t really “get” science. Luke is spectacular at both those things.

Desperate for a method that works, I resorted to what I did his fifth grade year. I threatened to attend some of his classes with him. It was dramatic to see his response to that suggestion. In fifth grade, he was mildly embarrassed, but not overall bothered. This year, though, his social situation is much different and the thought of that possibility absolutely mortified him. I think, probably of all the things I said to him that night, this suggestion received the most response. His grade situation is already on the mend, as he returned home last night with a plan, and several outstanding issues addressed. So, I would suppose as a teacher I could say that I used all the training tools at my disposal.

Life is a learning experience, as we’re all so often told. It shouldn’t surprise me, then, that I find myself in that “teacher” position, even when not actually holding a technical “class.” I think it’s hard for the kids to view their parents as potential teachers as well, and we’re both reluctant to fall into our roles–me as teacher and him as a student. It’s not the traditional process, and certainly wouldn’t be the traditional outcome if I didn’t interfere.

In having lunch with a couple of friends of mine yesterday, one told me that her parents were never involved in her academic life. She wasn’t ever pushed to achieve better grades or complete assignments. She feels she would have been better off today if her parents had gotten more involved. I think also about my own parents. They were hard on me, but I’m better for it. So, reluctant as I may be about it, a teacher I have become.


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