This is the first in a series of blog posts that Erin will share about her choice to become a teacher, as well as reflections on her current role teaching high school English.
When I was little, it seemed as if everyone I knew was a teacher or involved in education. My parents were both teachers, and many members of my extended family were involved in education, either as teachers or principals, so it seemed that people assumed I would follow in that path (which I eventually did, but I will get to that later). Because my parents were teachers, their friends were also teachers…I just couldn’t escape it.
As a kid, it felt as if most conversations that took place in my house in some way connected to education. In fact, I specifically remember my parents having talks at the dinner table that somehow always began with, “What’s said at the table, stays at the table.” The mere mention of this phrase would indicate to my sister and me that what we were about to hear could not be repeated outside of our home, and that this talk was about something that happened in one of my parent’s school days. Without breaking our “code” today, I remember all kinds of conversations about what happened with certain students, parents, colleagues, etc., and I always thought how involved my parents’ jobs really were; and there was a part of me that thought it sounded like fun, as I don’t think I recall a time when my parents’ conversations about their work were in any way mundane.
When your parents are teachers, you become a “teacher’s kid,” and with that seems to come a whole new level of what it could mean to be a kid. I am not sure I ever minded being a “teacher’s kid” when I was little, but that began to change as I got older. The strange thing is that I never really thought about being different from other kids; the only difference was that I went to my mom’s classroom after school, rather than getting on the bus to get home. Actually I thought it was fun being in my mom’s room because I would help make “dittos” with the really strong blue ink or I might get to erase the chalkboard, and my sister and I would argue about who got to draw the new lines for the cursive exercises for the next day with the colored chalk. As we got older, we could help correct a few papers, cut out math manipulatives, or simply have some time to do our own homework before heading home for the day.
Upon reflection, I do think, though, that there are certain expectations that other people have of “teacher’s kids,” and it’s interesting to think about how people, in general, have perceptions about education. Although it isn’t often said, people think that when you’re a “teacher’s kid” you should be “practically perfect in every way” – kind of like Mary Poppins – and really that’s unfair. In some ways, I probably perpetuated the stereotype because I really liked school and I tended to do fairly well. From the very beginning in Kindergarten, all the way to my senior year of high school, and beyond…there really hasn’t been much about school that I haven’t enjoyed…I liked every subject and I worked hard to earn my grades.
I think some of the most interesting aspects about being the child of teachers are the different perspectives my parents’ careers brought to my education experience. My parents’ teaching jobs were very different. My dad taught high school physical education, and eventually taught Driver’s Education, and an elective course at CMU; my mom started her career in education as a speech pathologist, and then about halfway through, transitioned into the elementary classroom teaching first, third, and second grades respectively.
Although early on I resisted the initial career path of education, I eventually found myself in it and have been for twelve years. As I take the time to occasionally reflect on my experiences, I often think about the multiple roles I find myself in, and I think back to my parents, my childhood as the “teachers’ kid,” and our “what’s said at the table, stays at the table” moments. Just last week, my mom (34 years in education, retired for 8 years) was telling me about her volunteer experience at our elementary school book fair and told me about how she couldn’t believe that parents would send their child to the book fair with one dollar with hopes of purchasing a book. The interesting thing about her story is that I knew the outcome before she even mentioned it…my mom made up the difference for the student so that the child could go home with a book – and even more predictable was that this gesture wasn’t just for one student, but many…and I really didn’t find this particular scenario surprising at all, it’s one I have heard many times before.
I don’t have all the answers about what’s best for teachers, education, or students, and I am not sure I ever will. Yet, there is one thing I know for sure: this teachers’ kid wasn’t the only one at the table. And she’s now become a teacher herself.
Erin Busch-Grabmeyer (@erinbg18) teaches English at St. Louis High School in St. Louis, Michigan. She was a part of the CRWP Summer Institute in 2010 and now serves as a teacher consultant.
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