Sunday, May 12, 2013
From the View of a Mother, Artist, and Educator.
Today is Mother's Day, and like most moms out there, I am enjoying my time with my family. I'm only able to write this because 1. my amazing husband came home from his late night shift with a decaf iced mocha and his apron on to make a hearty breakfast for the family, then took a hard nap from being awake too long, and 2. My daughter is obsessed with Sofia the First on Disney Jr.
While I was browsing the internet, I came across a nice article written by a teacher and a parent, which you can read for yourself here, called "Being a Parent and a Teacher...an Impossible Combination?"
In the article, the author retells her daily schedule and offers advice for teachers who struggle with the balance of teaching full time and parenting full time. I commend her for what she does, and as I was reading, she's just the view from the high school teacher perspective.
As an elementary teacher, I can't recall when I've been home before 4:00 on most days. Since we can't afford day care, my husband and I balance a schedule to make sure our daughter is with one of us most of the time.
I felt compelled to write this post because as teachers, travelers, cart pushers, and caretakers of entire schools, we feel that pressure whether if we are parents or not. Our schedules do not begin at 8:00am and end at 3:00pm. Our brain is constantly multi-tasking on work and home.
In my title of this post, I named three main components of who I am in that exact order.
I am first and foremost a mother, and family should come before career. I learned that the hard way.
While I was pregnant with my first, I thought I was going to be supermom. I was the president of the National Art Education Association Student Chapter and a first year teacher traveling to three schools, pushing carts at two of them. I was proud of what I could do, but once my daughter was born, I didn't realize how much pressure I was putting on my husband. I was combining my three priorities into one without understanding the consequences.
After completing my presidency, I decided to pursue National Board Certification. I wanted to refine my teaching practice, and take steps to move toward leadership roles in art education. I did communicate this process with my husband, but again, with time to write entries, document class time, and travel to mentor meetings, I still had my husband giving extra support. By the time I completed the certification process, I burnt him out.
This was the time when I had to realize that I had to separate and organize my priorities. In the article I posted above, the author lists some dos and don't to help balance family time and work time. I failed miserably with keeping technology out of the picture (and again, I'm writing this while my daughter is watching Disney Jr.).
I put my career before my family, and it had consequences. It took time to heal, and we are much better now that we worked it out. I can sit with my daughter making sculptures out of play-doh, show her how to draw people out of shapes (wanting her prepared for kindergarten art next year!) and read stories to her every night.
I am an artist. I placed it before being an educator because I feel the need to know and understand what it is that you teach. Before you are a history teacher, you must be a historian. Before being a math teacher, you must be a mathematician. I am always learning as an artist, and I enjoy teaching what I have learned. I want my students to experience the "a-ha" moment like I did when learning a new technique or experimenting with a new material.
I am an educator. I teach an estimated 800-900 students per week. An educator may be the top word for my job description, but I am also a therapist, grader, traveler, student, colleague, resident visual artist,and the list goes on. I not only take care of my own daughter (and very soon a second on the way), but I do my very best to meet the needs of all 800-900 students a week. Many students are in similar situations as my daughter in our district, because as a low SES area, both parents have to work, or can't afford a car and/or food on the table. I am one of many teachers in my district that nurture the students, and help them to understand that they are cared for and loved, while teaching them to be well-rounded citizens.
The author of the article above is able to make it home around 4:00 on most days, but in my situation, half the time I do not get home until much later. We have mandatory meetings, after school activities, assessments, set-ups, musicals, and the list goes on. I'm sure I'm not the only school district that goes through that. Oh...and plan time...20 minutes is nothing for an art teacher setting up lessons.
So here's my list of what I recommend for those who travel, push a cart, and are parents as well (or those who need a little organization in their lives).
1. Keep your work at work. In the article, I understood the first bit of advice right away. You can easily get lost in your work when you bring it home, plus you can also have milk bottles or crayons covering those student papers if you leave them out. It's your child's way of saying, "Pay attention to me!!!" I get to work early in the morning and use that as my plan time. Prep your projects, go over a checklist of materials on the cart, and try not to forget anything (better said than done sometimes).
2. Keep home at home. Enjoy your few hours you have in the evening with your kids. They need you, and will remember if you had your face focused on the computer. My own daughter turned my cheek toward her to make sure I'm paying attention to her, and she's done that since she was a year old. Yes, she's the reason I'm telling you this. Keep your kids involved with everything. Give them little jobs of washing dishes, feeding the animals, cleaning up their rooms and common spaces. Watch their favorite tv shows. Read them books. Do parent things, because they grow up fast.
3. Don't leave everything on the spouse. Yeah, you work. He or she may work too! And when you're not home, you don't know everything they do to keep the household running in order. Even if your spouse or partner works the same time as you, share the responsibilities. Organize what has to be done and it will save you headaches. Another thing I learned the hard way...Communicate!!!!
4. Keep track of the dates you will be home late from work. With open houses, art shows, meetings, and evening events you need to attend, pre-plan in advance. Don't leave that key detail out from your partner or spouse until last minute. Since my husband works nights, I need to find babysitters so he can sleep. Don't wait until last minute.
5. Leave your work space ready for the next morning. Yes, be prepared for things to pop up last minute in the morning, so have your checklist ready before you turn the lights off. When I have a data team meeting at another school after school hours, I am sometimes late because I need to be prepared. I'm not the only teacher that does it, we all need to pre-plan for the next day activities!
6. Communicate your meal plans with your partner/spouse. With our schedules, we can't think about food beyond the next day, and giving examples to you would take up another blog post. All I have to say is, don't call up asking "What's for dinner?" Plus, you can very easily get caught up in picking up meals, which can be very costly and unhealthy. There are days my daughter and I have bowls of cereal for dinner because my husband needs to sleep, and as long as I spend that time with my daughter, I'm not too worried about it.
7. Understand that messes can't always be cleaned up right away. Summertime, I feel I have the cleanest house on the block. During the school year, good luck having the trash taken out on time. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to be as neat as everyone else. With both parents working, many of us don't have the time to put the laundry away. On most days, as long as the food is in the fridge and I'm not tripping on blocks, we're okay. That's what weekends are for, or Friday nights (depending on your tolerance of messes in the house).
8. "Pin" everything you need for work. As a traveling art teacher, I find that I forget many things from one school to another, and what's saved me from forgetting my worksheets and tests is Pinterest. All documents are online, I can get there quickly print it up, and send jobs to the copy machine faster than driving back to my other school. Speaking of which, once you make your copies, save one copy for a binder in case the internet doesn't work in your district one day. It happens.
Some things do not work for everybody, but when advice can be given, I'm willing to hear it and share it. We all have unique situations. Understand your priorities and hug your children to no end. They grow up fast before your eyes.
And speaking of which...my daughter is getting my attention! Happy Mother's Day!!!!