This past week was Teacher Appreciation Week and today is Mother’s Day, both times to reflect upon two hats I wear.
I became a full-time teacher before I became a mother. (I’m using the stereotypical definition of the word mother. As all teachers know, the moment teachers stand in front of any room full of students, they become parents in some sense.) When I began teaching in the fall of 1995, my education, enthusiasm, energy, and can-do attitude allowed me to succeed. Eighteen years later, I want to say I still have all of those traits, plus experience, both as an educator and a mother, but there are times when I asked, “Can I do that?” There are times when my energy is lower than when I was 28 with only a husband waiting at home. And, in the last few years, my enthusiasm sometimes wanes. All of these factors work together and affect each other. They can work negatively but I try to prevent that especially when I read how some of my state legislators are saying my years of service (experience) should not matter in determining my salary. Read House Bill 4652.
So let me relate that to my motherhood hat. I have two children, born almost two years apart. When I became pregnant with my first child, I listened to other women who had lived through the experience. As the baby of my immediate family, I didn’t have the experience of caring for a younger sibling. My babysitting experiences centered around toddlers, so when I delivered my first child, I listened intently to the OB nurses. When we brought our daughter home, I read and again listened intently, this time to other mothers (including my own of course). All of these people had more experience than me and, thankfully, were never overbearing. Their information was priceless, especially after a night of no sleep due to an unpredicted change in Baby #1’s schedule. Yet, none of my friends or family asked me for payment; sharing their knowledge was just a natural part of our relationship. We knew there was no competition over who would raise each of our children. We were working together to help each other be better parents.
When Baby #2 arrived, things were different, but I didn’t have near the amount of questions. My own experience was paying off, both financially (buying less reading material for example) and in other ways, such as less worry, since I typically knew what to expect. I was even able to help women who were experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood for the first time. And I never asked for payment.
The same was true when I became a teacher; the “veteran” teachers (having at least one more year in than I) freely shared their knowledge. Again I listened intently. I read professional books (usually recommended, and loaned to me, by a veteran teacher) and began my graduate program coursework. My experience as a teacher grew exponentially those first few years, and I’m extremely thankful for the collegial environment. Legislators, and others, are trying to change that environment.
With more emphasis on “performance primarily based upon data on student growth as measured by assessments and other objective criteria” (Again House Bill No. 4625.) I’m not sure how long “experience knowledge” will be freely shared. If teacher job performance is based mostly on student growth, and job performance determines job placement, and even A job, why would a teacher freely give out advice?
Luckily, my teaching colleagues are still open to sharing ideas and emphasize the teaching of the whole child, not just the test-taking child. We have less time to do both of these, but we are trying to maintain a high-quality education for all of our students and a high level of professionalism for ourselves. Why? Because we are teachers, professionals, who care. We know, in the end, that working together will help us be better teachers. I can only hope our legislators will listen intently to those of us with experience. I promise not to charge for my “experience knowledge.”