Five years ago, my son was on his way to us. We hailed him as a Three Kings’ Day (01/06) gift, the bookend to an otherwise brutal winter. We waited 41 weeks and counting to no avail as he refused to leave his mothers’ natural cocoon. The hospital staff ranged in their hospitality, but our main doctor came in like gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I remember not sleeping for 24 hours, restless over my new prince’s birth. When I finally cradled him in my arms, I remember thinking we might have made the world a better place and parented accordingly.
Both of Alejandro’s parents are educators with that mindset. Nine days later, I would return to the children our communities birthed.
My son’s birthday reminds me of the deep gulf between the lofty aspirations of our best days and the doldrum realities of our worst days in our classrooms. I’d say “truth be told,” but there’s so many contradictory truths I hold at once. I do believe in students’ capacity to learn, sometimes more than they believe in themselves. I get angry when students don’t try their best, though that might actually be their best. I don’t need my students to be compliant, but their understanding of respect and mine don’t always align. I’ve caught myself saying “if this student doesn’t show up today, the class will be 50% smoother” even when I know I want to and have to teach every single child.
The rub is that I’m a National Board Certified teacher, a writer, an activist, and an acclaimed education blogger. I blame myself for this. My students are blameless.
I’m receiving someone’s gift. 30 babies at a time, 145 babies a day. Their parents sent them to us with different needs, different competencies, and different orientations to institutions (specifically school). But even on my worst days – today is one – they remind me that parents sent a manifestation of themselves to us. I’ve done this for long enough to teach over a thousand students, some of whom said I was their school father, but that too lasted for what seems like a few seconds of my time in retrospect.
What does it look like for us to treat all of our children like our own?
I don’t know the answer because I’m not there yet. Parenting is teaching me a lot about myself as a teacher, though, and I plan on tending to this need.