Becoming a parent changed me as a teacher. I'd always considered myself a caring teacher, and parents had always commented that I was good with children and calm around them. Even so, I never really understood things the way I do now, as a parent myself.
I hadn't understood the look in the eyes of both parents as they sat across from me at parents' night. You know those eyes – the ones that say, "This child is my everything and I'm trusting you with him/her." I’d just taken for granted the trust parents were putting in me as a teacher, but now I really get it: I go over and above to let parents know that I will do everything I can to keep their child happy and safe.
I've always been a teacher keen to celebrate small achievements, as part of a positive classroom ethos, but truth be told, before becoming a parent I never really understood how a parent could beam with such pride at small and seemingly trivial matters. In my infant classes, for example, I used to praise small achievements like cutting things out neatly or organising a school bag and putting a snack in the right place. Parents always looked proud as punch when I'd tell them, which I never used to understand – but I do now.
With two boys of my own at home, I totally get the small things and how happy they make you as a parent – how proud you can feel even when a feat would seem small to others.
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When I taught in infant classes and parents approached me on the first day of term to talk about their child’s diet and how fussy they were as an eater, I used to reassure them that I’d keep an eye on them at lunchtime. Now, at home, I have one boy who is an incredibly fussy eater and has a really restricted diet; parents’ level of concern about this sort of thing makes complete sense now. If a parent ever approaches me again with such concerns, I will go over the top in reassuring them that their child will not go hungry in school and will eat something – that’s what those parents wanted to hear, but I didn’t know it at that point.
Parents take pride in small achievements
At that first P1 (the first year of primary school in Scotland) or P2 parents' night, when parents would ask me if their child had made friends, in the past I almost fobbed them off with a vague answer and instead tried to focus on talking about their learning – we only had 10 minutes, and it seemed that that should be the priority.
At any nursery parents’ nights I’ve been to for my two boys, however, I haven’t been overly interested in the volume of work my boys are doing: I’m more interested in who they are playing with and whether they are happy. If a parent asks me that question nowadays, then I know what they really want to talk about and will do all I can to comfort them.
I’m not saying having children has made me a better teacher, but it has definitely changed me for the better. I’m more understanding of the needs of parents and families and, in turn, I’m helping them to feel more comfortable around the school. And if you’re more attuned to the needs of parents, you have a great foundation for everything else.
Adam Black is a primary teacher in Scotland who, in the New Year's Honours list, received the British Empire Medal for raising awareness of stammering. He tweets @adam_black23