Sometimes the lines between mom and teacher blend, and, really, I don’t know where one ends and the other begins. This is evidenced by the number of times I have been called “mom” in my classroom, and I know I am not the only one. I have also been told that I organize my days out of the classroom like lesson plans. (But, really, isn’t good planning essential in everything?)
For hours every day, my students are my kids, carefully entrusted into my care. I am teaching them more than an academic subject. Through modeling, practice, patient reminders and expectations, I am teaching them etiquette, politeness, respect, tolerance, compassion, empathy, consideration, teamwork, communication, public speaking, independence, responsibility, and leadership.
I come home after school, and the echoing calls for “Ms. Kurtz” turn into echoing calls for “Mom.” My behavior, expectations, and conversation with them have the same effect as with my students. My dual-identities define me, and work hand in hand complementing both of my roles. As a teacher, I am driven by organization, schedules, and responsibility. This flows naturally into my mothering, filling our days with fun schedules and plans where everything is ready and prepared. We wake up in the morning and the outfits are set out for the day, lunches are packed and ready to be placed in the already prepared backpacks, and shoes are sitting neatly by the door. Not a detail of the morning has been left unplanned… until… the milk spills all over the floor and my son’s clean clothes as the dog gets out and runs through the streets all on a state testing morning (yes, that did happen to me!)
While the teacher in me craves organization, routine, and flawless undertakings, the mommy in me knows that sometimes life cannot be planned, sometimes kids are kids, some things cannot be prepared ahead of time, and–some days–nothing goes as intended. While the teacher in me feels defeated, the mommy in me doesn’t falter in her resilience, because this is just another day, just another problem to solve, and just another hurdle to overcome.
Flexibility has served me well in the classroom, as my students sometimes don’t react the way that I planned (can you believe it!). When a student brings in a signed note that says they don’t have their homework because the dog ate it after the child dropped the breakfast bacon on it, the mommy in me hushes the teacher “responsibility speech” gurgling in my throat, and smiles, because, I get it. I have had these mornings and needed grace and compassion from my children’s teachers. Because really, my students do need to be taught responsibility, but they also need to know that I see them, that I understand, and that I care.
When I meet my students, they will be looking at a veteran teacher and mom. I come as a double package because I cannot separate the roles: they define me, explain me, they have become me. This teacher will guide them with the tested and perseverant heart of a mother, with all of the lessons that only a mother learns. I will plan accordingly for my back to school night and come in dressed to impress, carrying with me my professionalism, my MA degree, and 15 years of experience in the classroom. But, what I want my parents to hear and see is a teacher who is capable, flexible, and in the trenches with them as a mother of three children under the age of 12.
When I attend my children’s back to school night and meet the eyes of another mother, I will know that I have an understanding ally. I will know that I am not in this year alone.
Jessica Kurtz, MA in k-12 Teaching and Technology, BA in k-8 Education, BS in Biology, Science and Engineering. Jessica is a middle school teacher at Toms River Schools, K-8 Science curriculum writer for Toms River Schools and Ocean County, an independent Science workshop creator and presenter, freelance writer.
-Ms. Jessica ¨Mom¨ Kurtz
Have a good back to school night story, or advice, let us know in the comments!