by Jeanne Sager
Whenever anyone says mothers are "better" at things than non-parents, I feel a twinge of sympathy for the child-free. How presumptuous is it to assume that one's parental status makes them "better"? And so it is with the assertion that parents make better teachers.
That's the title of a controversial article by Sara Mosle that appeared in Slate just in time for back to school. A mother and a teacher both, Mosle claims she's better at the job now that she has a daughter than she was two decades ago when she was just starting out.
Fair enough, but perhaps that has more to do with two decades of experience in adulthood than with her progeny?
Sure, parents can make for good teachers. I sent my daughter off to school this morning and into the classroom of a mother of two. I'm hoping for a good year, a year not unlike the last three she's had -- each with mothers.
Is it because these women had children that they were so responsive to my daughter's fears, so encouraging of her love of reading, so willing to dole out hugs and tissues? Maybe.
Then again, her kindergarten teacher has been teaching in the district for decades, and her daughter is not much older than my own -- perhaps 10 or 11 at most. She has been a teacher far longer than she's been a mother, and she's always been beloved by her students and their parents both. She was "the" teacher to get well before her child came along.
It had nothing to do with motherhood and everything to do with the fact that she was simply the right sort of person for the job.
There are single people and married people without kids who are the right sort of person for teaching -- tons of them. Some of my favorite teachers had no children (and still don't). They were still warm, still nurturing, and had lasting impacts on my life.
Heck, they brought things to job that their fellow parents could not because they had NO kids at home. Think about it -- they didn't get burnt out on kiddom. They went home at night and got real sleep! They didn't spend their mornings waging a war over teeth brushing, sneaker finding, and lunch preparing before arriving in a classroom and having to face 22 sneaker-wearing, gap-toothed grinning children toting lunch boxes.
They weren't there because the job guaranteed they wouldn't have to pay a sitter during summer and Christmas vacations. They had true delineations between their private lives and their work lives.
If that's what it takes to get a good teacher for my kid, so be it.
I want a teacher who loves kids -- whether they have them or not -- and who has the patience to work with them. I want a teacher who loves learning so much that they want to spread that love.
I want them to be there for my kid.
And if the only person who meets those criteria has no kids, I'm sure as heck not going to say, "Eh, no, let's get a Mom in here, because she'll do a better job."
Do you think teachers should have to be parents?