Having Kids Made Me A Better Teacher

Being a parent makes me a better teacher. Yes, I know that not everyone will agree with that statement but hear me out. Teachers, as with any professional, have various events, relationships, and experiences that shape their professional identity. Simply put, we turn out to be the teachers we are largely due to a lifetime of experiences that influence us in one way or the other. I realize we have formal training, but let’s be honest, that really does not do anything to make us better teachers. I learned a great deal of history content, but the craft of teaching was learned in the hours of observations and student teaching. For me, I need to DO something in order to learn it and get good at it.


The first few years I taught, I was mediocre at best. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. By the third year, I felt like I was finally starting to earn my paycheck. Kids were engaged, parents didn’t hate me, and I had built a great relationship with my peers. However, one of the biggest things that had a positive impact on my teaching was when I had children of my own.

Now this is not to say my instruction or teaching strategies changed because they didn’t. However, I have a different perspective in not only how to deal with kids but also with parents. When you put your child on a bus and send them off to school for the first time like I did last year, it hits you. It is not an easy thing to send your child off to a relatively perfect stranger. There is an anxiety and almost fear that first day. Will my child make friends? Will he get picked on? Will he be a bully? Will he pee his pants? Will the teacher find his sense of humor that was greatly influenced by his father funny or appropriate? All of those questions and many more went through my head as I am sure it does nearly every parent that sends their kid to school.

Having gone through that anxiety and the struggles of sending a kid to school, I can relate to parents on a new level. For starters, when I talk to parents I have common ground as a parent myself. There is a certain amount of credibility in what I say because I have been in their shoes. If you don’t have kids yourself, can you look in a parent’s eyes and tell them you know how they feel? I share openly of my own experiences with my student’s parents and that often opens a door of communication and rapport that was not possible before.

In addition to the parents, I approach how I deal with kids much differently. I am not going to say I ever wrote a kid off, but there were certainly kids that burned me out and pushed me to my limits. If I am being honest, I got to a point where I pulled away and put less effort into them. That is no longer the case. How would I feel if a teacher ever gave up in the slightest bit with my kid? I try to make every effort to treat each kid as my own. I go out f my way to connect to the quiet kid and the kids that don’t typically stand out. What kind of teacher would I want for my kids? That is the type of teacher I try to be. I know I will continue to work on this and evolve my thinking as my own kids get older, but it is a start.

Again, did my teaching change when I had kids? Not really…but my perspective did and how I approach my relationships with both parents and students. I am not saying teachers without kids are bad teachers. Nor am I saying that those with kids are better. What I will say is that having kids gives you insight and perspective that you cannot have otherwise.

11 comments:

Teacher Mum said...

I actually think it works both ways. Being a teacher makes me a better mum and being a mum makes me a better teacher.

Shauna (FunInABoxCanada) said...

After I had my own kids I realized just how many things could affect how a child's day was going: what they'd eaten (or not), how they'd slept, whether they didn't feel comfortable in their clothes that day, that they'd had an argument with a friend on the way to school... Often behaviour had very little to do with what was going on in the moment. I also realized that I am hardest on kids the same age as my own because I am tired of dealing with the same issues at home. After my kids got a little older I also realized that the world does not end if a 5 year old rolls around on the carpet!

Wendy said...

Perspective is key the other way too. When parents are encouraged and/or allowed to be engaged so that they are part of their child's education team - they gain a more complete view of the teacher/administrator side of things. We may never "know" everything, but a change in perspective can make it easier to understand.

Terri said...

I believe the same as you. I have never seen it articulated so well.

Brian Bailey said...

Absolutely! That isn't to say that you can't be a good teacher if you haven't had children. However, all parents know that having children completely changes your life. There is so much you don't know or take for granted about children until you have your own.

Tom Altepeter said...

Having two daughters has given me a perspective I never had before, and it has everything to do with how I interact with both students and parents. Thanks for sharing this, Josh.

MissA said...

What a great post. And so true! I often think of my mother when I'm dealing with parents. Especially with parents whose first language isn't English as is the case with my mother.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more grest post.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I don't have children, but I decided to become a teacher a lot later in life. Due to the experiences I had as a child, and experiences that I observed while being a student teacher, I was determined to have emotional awareness in my classroom.

For example, I greet every child who enters my classroom before school. Why do I do that? I know by looking in their eyes that something is wrong or nothing is wrong.

I think being sensitive to children is an enormous factor. Teaching isn't always about the subject matter, but it is also about the emotional element. Until those walls are broken down, some children will never hear you.

Thanks for the article. It was quite interesting.

Becca said...

I can completely see where Mr. Stumpenhorst is coming from when he writes that having his children has given him a different insight into teaching, and changed his perspective. Furthermore, Mr. Stumpenhorst goes on to say that it is easier to relate to his student’s parents, being a parent himself. However, as a woman in her mid twenties who has no plans on ever procreating, I find these types of statements difficult to stomach. I believe that fostering positive and integral relationships with parents and their children is the absolute key to becoming a better teacher. When parents see you as an ally, a person who is there for the benefit of their child, and see you as an advocate for their child, they will be much more apt to work together with you, regardless of whether you have children or not. Additionally, although having children does give you credibility with parents and students, if you have other experiences that take the place of that, you can see similar successes.

Marie said...

I can appreciate that your perspective changed when you had children and that you will have a perspective that I may never understand, but I do not think that means that I cannot appreciate parents’ hopes and fears for the children. It would never even occur to me to look a parent in the eye and say, “I know how you feel”; because you are right, I do not know how they feel. I am sure you have an idea of how they feel based on your experience as a parent, but unless you have walked the exact mile in the exact same shoes, do you really know exactly how they feel? My family and career experiences prior to entering the education field, although not as a birth parent, have given me the unique perspective of understanding parent’s in a way that you may never understand. My hope is that when you or any other teacher who is a parent meets me, I am accepted based on my actions as an educator and not just a teacher who does not have kids who call me mom.