I read Dave Younce’s LeaderTalk post on being an educator and parent, and while my kids aren’t in school right now, our oldest turns 3 this summer (When did that happen?) and will start pre-school in the fall. He’ll be going to school Tuesdays and Thursdays for 3 hours each day.
While I’m not (yet) having to deal with the crossover between parental issues and school discipline issues in the sense that Dave describes, his post did remind me of a conversation I have once in a while and, in fact, addressed as recently as last week.
I’ve had people make comments to me like, "Oh your poor kids – they’ll be in school where Daddy’s the principal…" but I’m not so sure where that’s coming from. I’m sure some of it is them imagining what their lives would have been like if their parent had been the principal when they were in school, but I still don’t see the big deal. I’m sure it’s mostly meant in jest, but it always makes me think about why there seems to be an overwhelming assumption by non-educators that having your parent work in the school you attend is, by default, a bad thing.
I was a teacher’s kid and went to high school where my mom taught English. I was a good kid. A classic underachiever (a story for another post…), but well-liked by teachers and with a pretty good circle of friends. Sometimes I’d go a week without even seeing Mom on campus. Of course, there were 3200 kids in the school, but my point is that even when I had friends in her class, the issue of her working there rarely came up.
Currently, my principal has a kid that goes to our school and, again, it’s never been an issue. I suspect that some of it has to do with the fact that he’s a good principal (not a power-hungry jerk) and his kid is a great student, but what if it went the other way? What if he was a lousy administrator? Or what if his kid was a slacker who was disrespectful to teachers?
I’m making a gross generalization here, but in my experience I have found that teachers’ kids are either the best or the worst students you’ll work with. I think that they’re either raised to be good, responsible people who are held accountable for their actions — both good and bad, or they’re raised with mom or dad excusing every behavior and using their position within the system to shelter the kid from consequences. The worst, most awkward positions I’ve been in as an administrator are having to talk to a teacher about their child’s inappropriate behavior.
Two examples come to mind immediately. Both are actually from my time as a math teacher. First was a student – let’s call her Suzy. Suzy’s mom taught – um – let’s say, History at the school where I was teaching math. Suzy was habitually late to class by more than a minute or two, yet never failed to produce a pass signed by her mom. "Well – she had, you know, ‘girl problems,’" was the most common excuse. The worst part was that Mom would excuse Suzy’s absences on test days, too, because, "After all – she missed so much of your class this week…"
Then there was another student. I’ll call her Molly. Molly’s dad was the assistant principal where I taught and was one of the most polite, respectful, and courteous students I’ve had the pleasure to teach. She was an athlete, a scholar, and an all-around good person. The kind of kid I hope my daughter becomes.
So two kids, both with a parent at the school, both as different as night and day. As a parent, it’s my job to make sure my kids turn out more like Molly and less like Suzy. It’s easy to make excuses for your kids. To try to shelter them from anything unpleasant happening to them in their lives, but that’s doing little to prepare them for a reality where they will be held accountable for their decisions and actions.
I was accountable for myself in high school. My mom wouldn’t even excuse my absence on Senior Skip Day. "Don’t expect me to lie for you. If you skip school and get caught, you’ll have to deal with the consequences." Of course, this wasn’t a popular position with me at the time, but as a parent and educator myself, and with the benefit of some growing up, I understand, respect, and appreciate why she took that stance.
We work very hard with our son (our daughter is only 7 weeks old…) to teach him to do the right thing because it’s the right thing – not because of some real or imagined consequence or punishment from us. It is my hope that he’ll grow up to be the kind of young man that I’m proud to have enrolled in the school where I work. And that he won’t be embarrassed if Dad’s name is on the door of the principal’s office.