My mother the teacher

When one of the boys I was coaching in baseball found out my mother had been his teacher, he said immediately about the sweetest woman I know, “Your mother is mean.” I asked him why he would say that and he said my mother put his desk up front by her desk. Now, if you remember anything about teachers, you know when a teacher does this she is beyond her last straw. I also knew the boy was more animated than others in practice and would not listen very well. When I mentioned this later to my mother, she said, “He was a real pill.”

Teaching is a hard job. It can be very rewarding, but it also can be very thankless. My mother has always been a teacher, whether as a second grade teacher, as a substitute or as a bible study teacher. She would spend (and still does at age 83) hours preparing her lessons and, in the case of elementary school, grading papers. In her paying job, she probably worked ten to twelve hours days. Some might say, teachers get summer off, but they work a week after school is out and a few weeks before every one comes back. But, when you add up the hours, they can rival most year-round employment jobs.

However, because they are relatively low paid, especially in my state of North Carolina where we are 46th in teacher pay, many work summer jobs as well. Our state is trying to remedy the problem it created with frozen budgets and cutbacks on additional pay for masters degrees. Teachers have been voting with their feet leaving the state and the Moral Monday protests added a large voice to that of teachers to shame the legislators into doing something. They are still arguing over this as of this writing.

Yet, through this process, teachers have not been shown the respect they have earned. Of course, there are some poor teachers. But for the large part, my experience has been with very dedicated professionals. And, they also take the blame for things outside of their control. My mother would tell you that it does take a village to raise and educate a child. A good teacher cannot do the parent’s job. It needs to be a team effort between the teacher, parents, counselors and teacher assistants. Also, volunteers help, in a large way, especially if there is not enough teacher assistants to cover the classes.

But, you may have noticed I used the plural of parents. The dilemma these days is if you looked at the demographics of classrooms, the number of kids with divorced parents would not be insignificant. Further, the number of those kids with only one parent in their relationship would not be inconsequential, especially in high poverty schools. In the volunteer work I do for homeless families, there is a significant percentage of single parent families. Divorced or single parent families make it tougher on the kids.

A couple of years ago, I tutored two fifth graders in math. They were interesting and attentive little girls who asked for help in writing. This blew me away. Yet, one had ten people and three generations in her house and the other had seven people. Each had a heavy list of chores beyond the normal 5th grader, so school work was difficult to fit in. The nice part is a school counselor was working with the teachers and parents to help these girls keep up. Since English was their second language, word math problems gave them trouble, as did geometry, but that can give anyone nightmares. We worked through their issues and they passed.

Seeing my mother with my kids and my nieces and nephews, she has the patience of Job. She embodies what teachers are all about. They want to help people and take great pride when the children learn and can apply their learnings to something else. In Finland, teaching is one of their most honored professions. Their brightest aspire to these roles and are given the freedom to teach. They are paid well and Finland routinely ranks high in education achievement.

We should value people like my mother. They make such a huge difference in our kids’ lives. They did in my life, as well. So, big shout outs to Mr. Batten, Ms. Bowden, Ms. Regan, Ms. Shrout, Mr. Brickell and countless others. Thanks for teaching me. And, the biggest thanks go to Mom. You are my first and best teacher. I love you, Mom.

12 thoughts on “My mother the teacher

  1. And my first year Management professor. (I’m terrible on remembering names, but the face is imbedded in my memory). He scared the living bejesus out of many, most of those never graduated. For those who got the message, he was an inspiration.

    • Barney, I had a few of those, whose names I would have to dig out, as well. It is no less reflection on how they taught me, it is just I cannot remember the names. My Management professor biggest impression was the story I recite often – if you want to have success do these three things – show up, show up on time and show up dressed to play. But, I cannot remember his name either. Thanks for your comments, BTG

  2. a long time ago, i was waiting in the car-tag line at the ‘yazoo county’ courthouse in mississippi. we were moving from louisiana back to ‘the delta’ and i had several vehicles to register. when it was my turn, i asked the older man behind me if he’d like to go next, as mine might take a while. he said that he didn’t mind waiting. then he asked where i was from.. i told him that we were moving from louisiana, but i had grown up in a tiny town of ‘benoit.’ the man then very tenderly said, ‘honey, who was your mother?’ i told him, and he then said, ‘i fell in love with my second grade teacher….’ (which of course was my mother, whose first teaching job was in his equally-tiny town…)

    i wish we could roll back to those mayberry rfd years….


    • Z, what a poignant story! How do you pronounce the name of the town – the French way or a southern way. By the way, I had a crush on my 5th grade teacher, so it easy to do, especially when the teacher makes class fun. On running into people, it is serendipitous when you meet someone like that. You keep looking for Rod Serling over your shoulder. Thanks for sharing, BTG

      • people tell me that i look lke my mother, so when they see me, it’s like having her back. it’s a great comfort to me to give them comfort as well!

        i met another man – a teacher, who also was one of mother’s students in that same area!


  3. Morgan Spurlock’s show “Inside Man” had an education episode in which he visited a school in Finland. I wish our model was more like theirs. My kids are constantly stressed about tests and homework. Even my little one has lots of homework, in kindergarten.

    • Amaya, I need to look for that show. Of course, we are going to abandon Common Core here, which the teachers want improved not tossed out. The Houston School District has been successfully recruiting NC teachers having conducted jobs fairs in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte. As a parent, we waste so many days. I think we only teach our kids 160 days out of the 180 due to testing, make up testing and year end absenteeism. I hope your kids are having a great summer. BTG

  4. I usually found that the strict teachers created a good learning environment, while some of the most lenient tried too hard to be the students’ friend.

    I certainly agree that families and support services need to work with schools and teachers for the education of each child. But I think parental education, attention and income are better predictors of success than family structure. As a single parent for 12 years, I grew to dread any conversation in which single parents took the rap for poor student outcomes. Parental overwork, neglect, and lack of parenting skills are not the sole province of single parents.

    • Very true. Single parents have a hard job getting to various school meetings, teacher conferences, after school functions, homework shepherding and working a paying job. But there are great examples such as yours. To your point, there is a body of work called 32 million fewer words. Kids from homes in poverty, which includes single and dual parent families, have heard on average 32 million fewer words by the time they go to kindergarten. Yet, this provides one more challenge for the single parent. To me, the single working mother is a saint. Thanks, BTG

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