Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Teaching My Own: Beginning At The Beginning

It all started in a library.

My two toddlers were sitting on the floor, happily looking at books together, and with my baby contentedly taking in the world from her perch in her backpack, I stole a few moments to browse through the parents' bookshelf. This special collection of nonfiction volumes was culled from other areas of the library with a parent's interests in mind, and placed in the children's section for mommies to conveniently peruse in peaceful moments just like this one.

I don't recall which book I was trying to retrieve - maybe something on crafts with preschoolers, or recipes for kid-friendly foods - but a different book suddenly and inexplicably fell off the shelf. Instinctively, I reached down and caught it in mid-air, just inches before it hit the carpet. Surprised by my quick reflexes and agile grab, especially with that little papoose on my back, I turned the book over and looked curiously at the title.

Teach Your Own.

In an instant, my brain flashed back to the events of the night before. Our local elementary school had called a meeting for the parents of students who would be entering kindergarten in the upcoming academic year. I was so excited and proud to attend my first official school meeting as a parent. I was thrilled to be entering this new phase of my life, and had no doubt that I would soon be joining the PTA and baking cupcakes for every classroom party.

Once we were gathered, a group of maybe 80 families, a district administrator cheerily explained that due to anticipated overcrowding at the school, it had been decided that next year, all of the kindergarten students - our beloved sons and daughters - would meet for classes in a space at a nearby light-industrial strip mall.

The shock wave that passed through our group was perceptible. School in a strip mall? For kindergartners ? As we parents struggled to absorb what we were hearing, questions began to pour forth:

How would our students get to this school?
How would the additional travel time impact their already-short school day?
Would there be administrative support on site, like a receptionist and a nurse?
Would the students have chances to use typical school resources like the computer lab and library?
What about safety protocols - would they have fire drills and crossing guards, like the regular school? And by the way, where would they go for recess?

The district administrator blushed at his own lack of preparedness, and allowed that these were very good questions. Surely, he consoled us, we parents could rest assured that the administration would work out all these fine details in due time, and for now, we should simply accept that this really was the best solution to the problem of overcrowding. It was a game of numbers. Certainly we could all see that.

What I saw in that instant, with the razor-sharp pain of inarguable truth, is that to the school administrators, my precious first-born daughter and child of infinite promise was simply a number to be managed. They did not know how Beezus and Ramona made her laugh, how she loved to stir and chop with me in the kitchen, how her playtime going-on-an-airplane games were perfect reenactments of our family trips. They would never care about her tendency to laugh at funny little boys, or her fondness for her baby sisters, or her fear of sitting in the dark.

Yes, public educators do believe in education, I have no doubt. And I'm sure that they care about students as a collective whole. They are good, decent people  But district administrators, principals, even classroom teachers simply cannot afford to invest in each and every student in a personal, holistic way. They cannot love their students as parents can love their own children. It's a game of numbers. And suddenly I could see that.

* * * * *

As I stood with that book in my hand, reliving this memory, a new idea formed in the back of my mind and sprung forward to my conscious thought:

If I love my children more than anyone else, wouldn't it logically follow that I am best suited to teach them?

The thought intrigued me, excited me, scared me to death.  It also filled me with a profound sense of truth.

So I checked out the book and went home.

And that was the beginning of my journey.


  1. What a great post! What a great reason to teach your own children! And I really love the old photos. :)

  2. Your babies were so adorable.
    IS that Molly in the first photo? Big beautiful eyes.

    1. Thanks! I kinda like them, too. Yes, it's Jane in the high chair, Molly in the middle, and Emma and her thumb on the right. This photo dates back to just about the same time as my story.


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