A thank you to my children’s teachers

Posted on Dec 16, 2014 | 0 comments

It’s finals time, and as I watch the heads of my two high school-aged children bent over books and study sheets, preparing for their exams, I realize that I have no idea what they’re studying.

And for that, thanks are in order. Because it wasn’t always that way. And while it feels a little weird to be such an outsider to their intellectual lives, I know that it’s a very good thing. So this is for their teachers.

Motivating my kids used to be my job. I wheedled, nagged, threatened, withheld privileges, bribed…any strategy I could think of to ensure that homework got done before bedtime and that kids kept track of when things were due. Often, I had to help with that work. I prided myself on being  a pretty good homework Mom. I had the luxury of working part-time, so I was available.

When the going got tough in math, sometime around  seventh grade, I read the textbooks with them so that we could learn the material together.

But sometime during the transition from middle school to high school, their teachers picked up where I left off. Now it’s their teachers who require the homework, demand the attention, and motivate the participation, and my kids have become independent actors who relate directly to their teachers without me as an intermediary. So what they are studying today, the fact that they are motivated to study it, and the methods they are using to study, no longer have much to do with me. It’s their teachers who are guiding the process…and whatever they are doing is working.

I haven’t  looked at my children’s textbooks in a very long time. When my kids have questions, they stay after school or go in early. A teacher will help them.

All that’s left for me to do is provide food, shelter and Netflix for study breaks.

The study sheets they are working from now? I have no idea what’s on them. The material they are studying? Some of it I forgot right after I learned it, more than thirty years ago. Some of it I never learned.

What goes on in the classroom? Mostly a mystery to me.  I used to be one of those Moms who volunteered in the classroom just so I could get a first-hand view. Now, I wouldn’t dream of it.

“What exam did you say you have this morning?” I asked my son yesterday after waking him (yeah, I still have to wake him).

“Honors Biology. Oh, and after that, English.”

“And what’s your English exam about?”

“We have to analyze poems and passages.”

Poems? I thought. Who knew he was studying poetry?

It’s not that I no longer care. It’s just that their relationship with their teacher, and with their learning, is their own. I’ll coach them if needed. But it’s rarely needed.

This not something to be taken for granted. Their teachers have them six hours a day, and what they assign controls another couple of hours each night. I used to scrutinize their assignments, criticize them sometimes, wonder if the people I was entrusting with my precious children’s intellectual development were up to the challenge.

But the proof is in the pudding. My kids are not only learning, they are taking charge of their own learning. And somehow, mysteriously, their teachers brought them to here.

When I think about where it’s headed (college, graduate school, jobs, a home and family halfway across the country) I’m sad. But what a good sadness to have.

That first step, college, is not all that far off for either of them.  And thanks to their teachers, I’m beginning to think they’ll be ready. Whether I’ll be ready is another topic entirely. But for now, I’m grateful for their independence – and for the teachers who nurtured and helped it grow.

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