Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins, The Preschool Mommy | Posted on 07-02-2012
Tags: Gina Perkins, influence, influencers, mentors, preschool, Preschool Mommie, teacher, teachers
(Disclaimer: this is kind of a rant, completely lacking funny).
I saw a horrific story on the news last week. So horrific, in fact, that I can’t even bring these swollen fingers (at 32 weeks pregnant, what’s not swollen?) to type the details. Let’s just say, a Third Grade teacher in Los Angeles was arrested for having his students pose for some unthinkable photos. As if that wasn’t disgusting enough, allegedly, the photos were turned over to authorities by the photo developing lab, and the administration at this school was notified – but no parents were ever notified. This happened a year ago. A YEAR AGO? This has been kept under wraps for a year? Obviously, the parents at this school are demanding an explanation. How on earth could news this devastating, regarding their children, surface one year ago without any notice to them? Ugh, the pit in my stomach keeps growing.
I have jokingly mentioned home schooling to my husband a handful of times since giving birth to DJ. Most of those mentions have happened within the past six months. Now that DJ is in nursery school (albeit, a co-op, so I’m always there with her), I am much more sensitive to stories about teachers molesting (yes, molesting – I am tired of the candy-coated term “lewd acts”) their students, etc. I have said, on more than one occasion, that I will be that mom who serves as room-mom, yard-duty, teacher’s aid, chaperone, driver, etc. every single chance that I get. My daughters will hate me for smothering them – but at least I’ll know they’re safe. And contrary to how it might sound, I actually don’t plan on being overprotective – I plan on being involved.
Now, even though I threaten home-schooling during my episodes of distrust and lack of confidence in human decency, it’s only a threat. I know that I’m not at all cut out to be a home-schooler. While I have great respect for those who are, it makes me appreciate the good teachers all the more. And there are good teachers. There are still teachers out there who are changing children’s lives for the better. There are still educators and influencers out there who impact our kids’ confidence, development, and intellect – and when we find them, we must abundantly express our gratitude for their investment in the lives of our precious children. They are our greatest partners in parenting.
DJ has a favorite teacher. It’s her My Gym teacher. I’m not sure how or why it all started – but the two have developed an inexplicable bond. “Teacher Stephie” has become a household name, and DJ often asks me where she is, how she is, and makes reference to her long hair quite frequently! For several months now, I have watched their relationship deepen, and I have finally realized that Teacher Stephie is DJ’s first mentor. As a mom, this is a beautiful and powerful thing to see. Watching your child cultivate adoration for someone outside of the family (whom you trust) is pretty remarkable. Seeing your child’s adoration reciprocated is an overwhelming feeling….”Wow, someone sees how special my child is – and they’re willing to invest their time into her life.”
Last week, we had our first play date outside of My Gym with Teacher Stephie. You would have thought DJ won the lottery – and for all intents and purposes, she did. In her eyes, one-on-one time with this special teacher, was as good as it gets. Teacher Stephie was so gracious. She was so genuinely excited to be spending her morning with DJ. She even rode in the backseat with DJ as we ventured off to the Coyote Point Museum. It was so sweet to see Teacher’s Stephie’s vested interest in my child play out in such a genuine way. The way I see it, this young and remarkable girl will always have a place in our family.
I know that even though we are fortunate to have teachers in DJ’s life right now who are incredible – there will come a day when we butt heads with one who is not so great. I can still remember my sixth grade Science teacher. He was awful to me – and I still don’t know why. He used to make humiliating fat jokes (I was only mildly chubby) about me in front of other students, and he’d seemingly prey on my sensitive nature. He was an adult bully, and I began to hate Science because of him. His message to me was powerful, “Chubby girls who cry aren’t liked.”
The good news is, I also had a favorite English teacher at the same time in my life. She was my Teacher Stephie. We had a strong bond, one that I still treasure decades later. She often came to my defense, and on the really awful days, she’d walk me to a quite corner of the hallway, give me a tender hug and wipe away my tears. On more than one occasion, she’d march me right into the Principal’s office to share my story – though she’d never leave my side. She’d sit quietly while I told the principal what had been said to crush my already low self- esteem. I can’t recall if my parents were informed, but they certainly should have been. And my English teacher should have been applauded.
Good teachers do exist. And they are powerful. They leave their handprints on our hearts forever, really.
So, what do we do, as parents, when we come across adults in authority whom we don’t trust, whom we get an unsettling feeling from? We listen to our kids, and we listen to our instincts. When I was very, very young, I had a babysitter who was AWFUL. Despite the fact that she came highly recommended and had a very successful daycare run from her home – she despised me. She treated me much differently than the other kids. I don’t care to go into the details, but my mom listened to me. Listened to my cues. She took notice of my daily hysterics while on the way to this woman’s home. Not only did she notice my behavior, but my mom took action. Turns out this woman was later arrested and lost her childcare license.
My mom worked a lot of hours back then, and you can believe that searching for a new daycare just about killed her – but, I was more important than her own convenience. I was more important than her getting written up at work for coming in late another morning. I was more important that her willingness to settle for second best when it came to whom she entrusted me with.
That’s how we all need to be – concerned first and foremost with the messages that our children relay to us. Just because someone is put in charge of a classroom, has their name up on the chalkboard, hands out assignments and grades our children’s tests….their authority absolutely doesn’t trump our own. Their credentials might make them experts in their field – but we will always be the experts on our children. We need to remember that.
As a side note, I also think that if potential employers can use things like Facebook to better piece together our values and interests, than we should absolutely feel free to do the same as parents. I am Facebook friends with all of DJ’s teachers – and while I haven’t stalked them (really, I haven’t) – I have certainly paid attention to how they represent themselves, what their friends say about them, and what they seem to stand for. I don’t think that, as parents, we should feel sorry for one minute about asking questions, pressing for information or taking the extra step to get to know our children’s teachers/caregivers on a more personal level.
So, yeah, while some LA teacher hopefully rots away in a jail cell – there are a million other teachers whose heroic acts go unnoticed every day. Lets use our energy to seek those teachers out – to thank them, praise them, invest in them – and for goodness sake, buy them a box of supplies!