Being patient with children, listening to their problems, understanding of what they have going on, consistently making sure they can count on you, and showing them love are all great qualities of who? A parent? I would say yes. A teacher? I would also say yes? Good parents and good teachers do share similar qualities. Having those qualities can make you qualified to do both jobs, but it does not mean you can or should do both jobs.
Yes, many of our children we encounter in our schools and classroom lack a quality home life. Yes, we know what the research says about how a student’s home life can impact their ability to perform in school. Naturally, as a teacher, you want to make up for all that your students lack from home at school. I say that is a bad idea. As much as we want to change that student’s home life, there is not much we can do in that aspect. We can only change the things we can control. We cannot control the fact that our students have parents that may not attend school events, does not read to them or with them at home, or shows little to no interest in their child’s education. We cannot do anything about that, and we should not spend too much of energy trying to fix or change those things. What teachers should focus on are the things they can control. Teachers can control what happens in school. Control the fact that our students need a high-quality education. That high-quality education will open up doors and give them skills that hopefully can combat what they are not receiving at home.
Trying to be both parent and teacher can be stressful and can take teachers off the path they should be on. I remember reading an article about a teacher who talked about how she poured so much into her students that it drove her to quit teaching. She talked about how she worked in a school that was majority students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. She talked about how she rarely met the parents of her students, and her students came to school with so much baggage, were hungry, and without many of the necessary school supplies. She said, “Many students say their parents do not help with their homework. It makes sense because most of them come with homework not done and starving. I wish I could do more and make sure they spent less time at home and more time at school.” She would make extra food at home and buy extra food to keep in the classroom. She would stay late with her students. She wanted to provide the love and attention that she said her students lacked. She knew what she was doing was the right thing, but she quickly realized that it was not sustainable. She said she began to focus on everything but teaching her students. The late nights and the stress of worrying about her children and their home life wore her out and wore her down. She pushed to reach out to parents and invite them into the classroom and remind them about the homework, but nothing changed.
Teachers must teach their students and not try to parent their students. We want to believe that teachers have to wear many different hats. Yes, I know it is the right thing to say and do, but in reality, we should not. It is our job to ensure they receive a quality education to help them out of their situation. We cannot be the teacher, counselor, mom, and dad. If we try to be a jack of those trades, then we do not master what we should which is being the teacher.
I write this not to say teachers should not go above and beyond for their students; I write this to say do not sacrifice learning your craft as a teacher to wear other hats. Ultimately, be the teacher, not the parent.