Six short years ago I left the classroom to become a full time parent. Many believed I was making a huge mistake. After all, I had a job! No one gives up a job these days! Wasn’t it too risky? What if, what if, what if??? My conviction was strong….visceral. I just KNEW it was the right thing to do. Part of my choice stemmed from lessons learned in the classroom. My students, 14-16 years of age, were MY teachers! Watching, listening, interacting, I learned that children fall into two distinct groups – the haves and the have-nots.
The haves are the children whose parents are tuned in to their child’s life. How can I tell? By observing. Sorry, no prejudice intended, but the haves look different: They smile. Their heads are held a little higher; their eyes rest easy into mine during a conversation. There is a ‘knowing’ about them. Like, they know to turn their music off when they enter the room, lower their voice, and go quietly to their seat. I learned to count on the parents of the haves to answer correspondence. I was never surprised to see one pop into the classroom from time to time. It’s not uncommon to receive an unexpected email – “just checking in.” The haves are like any other teenager. They screw up but when they do I can be assured their parent will be on it and I know a resolution is on the horizon. Parent, student, and teacher become a partnership.
Have nots have a different set up. There ARE parents, but generally I don’t meet them until the end of the quarter (if at all). I can tell without anyone saying a word which students are the have nots. I get a lot from their eyes. Have not eyes don’t twinkle with anticipation, they dart with uncertainty. Have nots are loud, boisterous people demanding attention as they burst into a room. A have not will try to avoid my greeting at the door. Rarely will they take a seat without being told….actually, ordered. When they do sit, it is with extreme exaggeration, sometimes knocking into anyone in the way. Homework assignments are generally missing. Parent conferences are unattended. Requests for signatures are ignored. Have not eyes drop when due dates come around. Have nots do not expect success; by their very action they accept defeat. One have not parent summed it up “I don’t get it,” she said as she checked her text messages, “he’s got everything he needs. He’s just Ef’d up.”
Each year I watched the behaviors repeat themselves. My students taught me that to have or not have has nothing to do with money, possessions, or status. Many of my highest achieving students came from low income families. Some of my lowest achieving students came from wealthy families. Without a doubt their parent’s interest and involvement made all the difference—each time, every time - no exception.
Six short years ago I left the classroom to become a full time parent. After my experiences in the classroom my choice turned to necessity. The years with my children, now 6 and 4, cannot be replaced. I have provided an unconditional nest of love, compassion, guidance, and support. I have been with them, beside them, and behind them, gently nudging each through the first steps of their years, while steadfastly protecting their naivety. I know them well. They know me even better. We’re a team. It WAS the right thing to do.