Friday, January 14, 2011

Other People's Children

During a recent discussion about dealing with the daily dilemmas of teaching, one of my colleagues said that she realizes that her own ethical perspective determines her decision-making on behalf of the children in her classroom. This is very true.

However, she added, almost as an afterthought, that she supposed that if she were a parent herself, she might have a different perspective and possibly her decision-making would be different. This is also very true.

As teachers we are always dealing with "other people's children." It reminds me about when I was a babysitter from age 12-18. Those were not my kids. They belonged to someone else. At that time, the decisions I made on their behalf were based almost exclusively on what I knew their parents wanted. I was very mindful of the distinction between parent and caregiver.

Those lines blur in teaching.

Teachers will refer to their students as "my kids." We claim authority in their lives by virtue of our position. I don't know if it is because parents have abdicated their authority to us or we wrestled it away from them. All I know is that as a parent myself, I want teachers to be the best they can be at their jobs, but not override my authority as parent in the lives of my children.

In a way, parents contract out to teachers to educate their children. It is the parent's responsibility to ensure their child receives a quality education, and for many they choose to sub-contract out that job. But parents are still the "general contractors" - I wonder if they know that.

What role do you play in a child's education? Whether teacher or parent, how much power do you think you have?

Other people's children are my kids - at least it feels that way to me. But I must remember, they are only on loan to me temporarily. They belong to someone else.
Vicki and some of "her kids" - 2010