Ten Very Important Things You Need to Know If You Teach Your Own Child
01. EVERYTHING you say about your child, even if you made a nice joke that absolutely could not be factual in any shape or form will be believed by some small percentage of your students. You could be making up a complete fabrication, like the story I tell of the time my daughter learned to clap her hands for the first time. She had difficulty getting her hands to come together, and she often missed them altogether. So I suggested that if she could learn to clap her hands, I would take her out for ice cream. A few years later, when she finally could clap her hands successfully, I took her to an ice cream shop and she abruptly smacked her ice cream into her forehead! Some students actually asked her if it was true!
02. Eventually, your child will have the biggest crush on "that" student. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that makes you drink at night, the student who fails every class, the boy who dresses in all black, the biggest bully, the girl who is the rudest child, the meanest jerk or the immature back talker. Those are the tough days when you get home and just slink off to bed. Early. Like 5:30 early.
03. Your child will be known throughout the school simply as "Mr. Smith's kid," and not as an individual. And although most of your colleagues will know who your children are, every single student will know exactly who your children are, often before school even starts! And regardless of their academic abilities, both your students and your colleagues judge you at all times based only on your child’s behavior. Perfect behavior is not only expected, it’s demanded, by everyone. Any time your child messes up and misbehaves, you get that knowing look from the rumor starters in school. By the way, it’s not just the students who start rumors. Mrs. Johnson, *cough cough. Thankfully, I have perfect children.
04. When your child arrives tardy to your class, or hide in your classroom to skip a class because they failed a test or the teacher was "mean" to them, you just have to support them. You can’t yell at them to get back to class, to get out, to go study, to do whatever because you know they’ll go home and get you in trouble. So learn early and support them, regardless of the issue. Besides, a safe haven is important for many students, so you ought to at least have one for the students you really love! Also, if they are just plain wrong, you can always explain later how silly she was to like "that guy!" Every time your child walks down the hall to your classroom, you can give them the "I knew it wouldn't work out all along" look. They love that.
05. Your child will expect perfection from you. It’s exhausting. Not only do you have to teach and perform constantly in front of all your students in a way that is both stimulating and exciting, but when your own child is in your class, it becomes even more demanding. Every slip up and mistake on your part is a reminder that you are not perfect. When I forget a date, or conjugate an imperfect verb incorrectly, or have my facts wrong or simply don’t have an answer, that look of disgust cuts you to the bone. You will never ever get used to that look. Thankfully I never did because I was never wrong. Never.
06. It is never easy to grade their assignments. If you give your own child a perfect 100 for an exceptionally well written assignment paired with an outstanding presentation, you are being far too lenient with them and everyone will know. Students will talk about how you grade your own child easier than the rest of the class. However, if you give them a 50 for sloppy work, your spouse will demand an explanation that not even Johnnie Cochran could defend. Also, heaven forbid if you give your child a 97, and another student earns a 98! O.M.G!!!
07. Suddenly, personal stories and habits will be known by all. Those mornings you like to sit out on the back porch drinking coffee in your Star Wars long johns? So done! The long afternoons of talking about "the wonderful habits of students?" Can’t do that anymore! The weekend drinking with your friends? Finished! The issues surrounding your lactose intolerance? Everyone now knows about it. The fact that while taking a student group on a tour in Germany and lecturing them about gothic architecture I walked directly into a pole on the sidewalk ... everyone knows about that now!
08. You must be patient with them. When they wake up late and keep you from getting to work on time, and you lecture them on being responsible and how you are under contract to be at school by 7:30, you’re going to hear about it the entire way to school. She might not be saying anything while blaring the most annoying, stupidest rap song on the planet, but if you listen really, really closely, you can hear her eyes roll between the exasperated sighs.
09. They won’t tell you all the secrets of the party kids, the stoners, the dealers, the jerks, the bullies, the graffiti artists, the whatevers ... cause they’re trying to protect you from the reality of your position as a teacher. You are working with an awesome student that you know has a rotten home life, and they know all the dirty secrets about that student. When you press them on it, they keep quiet, because they are trying to protect you and their friends, and that’s pretty damn cool. That's who you raised, and that's the way it should be!
10. No matter what happened during your day; a huge personal victory, a student cursed at you, your students all made perfect scores on their AP exams, you had a student confide in you that they are pregnant, the toilet in Wing 4 overflowed, your personal letter of recommendation got a student accepted into college, it will not matter. You probably said something about your child and as soon as you got home they just told your very loving spouse. Now you are in big trouble, and all because EVERYTHING you say about your child comes back to you at home. For some reason, students want to know about you, and when you tell stories and discuss your own children, regardless of your intentions, your lesson, your point or emphasis, everything you say about them will come back to haunt you at home. Your child will come home, go directly to your loving spouse, and say, "Guess what he said about me this time!" And no matter what, you’re in trouble.
Having a "teacher's kid" in your classroom is quite difficult. However it is also very fulfilling and rewarding. Teachers try all the time to educate all of our students and we want nothing more than our graduates to become critical thinkers who are responsible citizens in this world. Well, when one of them is your own child, you can see the positive that is public education and the good that can come from your own classroom. Not many teachers get that, but you do if you’re lucky enough to have your own child in your room.