16 Years ago today I began the best professional development of my life. With the arrival of my 9lb 13oz daughter, Bailey, I became a mother and from that day on I was changed for the better. Now I don’t believe being a parent necessarily makes everyone a better teacher. I have many teacher friends who are unbelievably talented educators who are not parents and I have met some less than effective teachers who have begotten children of their own.
It is not the circumstances of our life that is responsible for shaping us, it is our perception, appreciation and responses that fashion the people we become. Having my daughter did not bestow upon me any special teaching expertise. What it did do was offer me the opportunity to experience the world through a child’s eyes again. It constantly reminded me that children are far more than just students, they are human beings with lives outside of those classroom walls and dreams that extend beyond the goals of any curriculum. It allowed me to empathize with the parents of my students in ways I could not have imagined. It helped me to deeply understand the developmental, emotional, cognitive and social needs as my children passed through each stage of childhood.
When my son, Casey, arrived two years later my understanding and empathy for boys became an eye opening experience. It helped me to appreciate children as individuals on a much deeper level-I could no longer think of siblings in schools the same way. I began to look for the ‘specialness’ in each of them, because I knew it was there. I began to challenge prejudices and assumptions based on gender, birth order, family history, etc. I learned to accept my children for who they are and not just for the hopes I had for them as babies. I’ve watched my daughter grow into an amazing dancer and not the tom boy/athlete I was in my youth- and I am in awe of her. They will have lives that I can not even imagine and yet it is my role to prepare them for it. That is the same task we as teachers have for our students.
So I want to thank my children for the professional development you have offered me over the past 16 years. You have challenged my thinking (and my authority!). You have provided me with experiences I would never have chosen. You have taught me patience, stamina and empathy for others on a daily basis. You have compelled me to seek balance in my life as I juggle my needs with yours. You have helped make me the person I am today-not perfect, but perceptive, patient and positive. I can’t wait to see what lessons the next 16 years will offer me.
The best professional development we as educators can have is that which shapes our world view and not just our classroom practice. It helps us to be better people so that we can be better teachers of people. It breeds understanding and empathy and not just pedagogy. We all should look for those opportunities in our lives and embrace them when they come along. What’s the best PD that you have received in your life?
What’s on My Book Radar?
I didn’t want this book to end. I loved Gae’s message of hope and redemption. I cared so much about Francesca and Frankie that I didn’t want to leave them behind when I’d read the last pages. These characters have flaws that we can all identify with and hearts that break and mend and forgive in ways that can help us reflect on our own relationships. I didn’t want to let go of The Summer of Letting Go!