They had a great idea, you know, the people who came up with American Education Week. Back in 1921, when so many people were illiterate and uneducated, they decided to block off a week to raise awareness and support for public education in America. Fast forward almost 100 years to the present when American Education Week is used as a way to draw families into the classroom. Special teas and receptions are set up in schools enticing parents to come and visit their children. Schedules are sent out and plans are made. Parents eagerly await the opportunity to see their child in action, thus confirming what they always knew deep down…their child is brilliant and wonderful. Teachers plan special lessons to show off their abilities and to show parents that school is not all about play and socialization, that real life learning occurs every single day. Students are so excited to have their parents with them, to sit at their desk or (for the very brave) criss-cross applesauce on the carpet. For one week they are partners in school, and both parties eagerly accept this.
But there’s a group that we forget about during this entire week. It’s a group I’ve comfortingly named “The Mama-Teachers”. This is a group of teachers who not only devote their days to the students in their classroom, but also have their own little people at home. Many times we forget about this subset teachers, inundated all day with the tiny humans, whether at home or at school. And as many of you know, I am one of them. And while moms and dads all over are making preparations to visit classrooms and have special lunches and receptions, I’m silently stewing and huffing because I won’t get to be there for my kids…because I have a class of my own to teach.
I get it, I do. It’s part of the territory. We knew this going in. But to be fair, I didn’t have children going in to this arena. And I know there are other people who are unable to take off work to visit as well. This is not lost on me. But I never get to be there. And right now, it really sucks. It’s American Education Week and dad is visiting the classrooms and not me because I am a teacher and parents will be visiting my classroom as well. Friday is Elementary Conference Day and dad will be attending both conferences because I will be teaching. And it’s not just American Education Week and conferences. It’s classroom parties, and field trips, and volunteering, and a plethora of other things. And let’s not even mention first days of school. I’ve missed them all…because it’s also my first day of school.
And for the naysayers, yes, I know I can take a day off. But not always. I work in a district where there are very few substitutes and taking a day off is very hard to accommodate. There are certain things that can’t be rescheduled or cancelled. Yes, I know children are a priority. They are my number one priority. But just once I’d like to go to something without it being a hassle or a nightmare. Without stressing over the leave slip I have to fill out and the reaction I’m sure to get from my principal. What I want more than anything is to feel like an active participant in their education and not just a homework helper.
Every little thing I can’t do in regards to their schools makes me feel like I’m failing as a mother. And I think it hits home more this year than any other. When I went to pick Charlie up from school a few weeks ago, they didn’t even know who I was because I had never been able to pick up or drop off before. My happiness of being able to actually pick her up was marred slightly by the sadness of knowing it might not happen again this year.
So tomorrow, I’ll have a classroom full of my parents and I’ll smile and nod and put on my song and dance number, but really my heart will be in Max’s classroom, room 114 where parents will be learning and watching third grade ELA, without me.
To all my Mama-teacher friends, just know I’m always thinking of you always, but especially this week.