Saturday, March 29, 2014

Seven Lessons My Son Taught Me That Made Me a Better Teacher

Dear William,

Today you turn 20.  You are no longer a teenager.

As I think about you this morning, I am filled with so many emotions.  Sadness.  Sentimentality.  Hopefulness. Optimism.  The tears that fill my eyes are tears of joy that you have reached this milestone in your life, and tears of sadness that you will no longer need me in adulthood as you have in childhood.

So many memories flood over me.  Your birth brought great joy to your daddy and me.  A boy to carry on the Sullivan family name.  A three-year-old wearing green Wellies and riding a firetruck.  A kid easily entertained with matchbox cars.  A student sneaking into my office for a few dollars or a snack.  An athlete practicing to prove himself worthy of playing time.  A willing worker bearing the heat and dirt of his grandfather’s business.  A young man of character cognizant of the value of faith.

You have paved your own path. You have done it your way, temper tantrums and all.  You have believed in yourself when others have not.  You have pushed yourself to prepare for your dreams. 

I witnessed your indecision, your struggle to decide on a college.  I prayed for you to make the best decision for you.  For you to be able to live the dreams you have.  For the door to your opportunity to swing wide open and for you to know, without a doubt, that your choice also was God’s choice for you.  You listened to Him, and followed with confidence and peace where He led.

Thinking back over the years, I realize how much you have taught me about life and about teaching.

I simultaneously giggled and cringed many times as you learned to pronounce your favorite toy, a fire truck. My reaction called attention to your problem and embarrassed you when I didn’t mean to; it took years to overcome that.
Lesson 1:  Speech therapy is life altering; it’s okay for students to miss my class for therapy.
Lesson 2:  Don’t embarrass kids; they don’t get over it.

In a standoff with my husband over which one of us would drop you off at daycare, we inadvertently left you home alone for a few hours.  Fortunately, you survived! You watched TV, ate some breakfast, put on your boots, went outside to ride your fire truck on the sidewalk, and locked yourself out of the house.  We can laugh now; we didn’t laugh then. 
Lesson 3: Even good parents mess up on occasion.  Behind the children I teach, there are good parents who sometimes mess up. Don’t judge them.
Lesson 4: Given the chance – or necessity -, kids can be self-sufficient.  Let them!

A seven hour school day, with six of them in a classroom under expectations to sit still, be quiet, listen attentively, and do the work is painful for a boy with energy.  Your body needs to move, you need to talk, you need some freedom.  At some point, you have to have it! I was tired of work after a long day; so were you.  Homework is often busy work, anyway, assigned because someone somewhere thought kids should have homework every night in every subject.
Lesson 5:  When homework disrupts the calm of a home, it is not worth the fight. Homework can wait.
Lesson 6: Rethink what I send home in my class.  Families deserve peace, free from the nightmares of finishing homework.

Who would have believed you would have had the chance to continue playing your favorite game after high school?  You showed ‘em, didn’t you?  You lived your dream.  You made it come true with extra hours of practice and perseverance in marketing yourself to college coaches.  What a fun year it was!
Lesson 7: Never underestimate a child’s resolve when it comes to his dreams. With or without you, he will go for it.  So you might as well encourage him.

Simple lessons I learned the hard way.  Lessons learned through motherhood that made me a better teacher.

Happy birthday, William! I am so proud of the man you have become. 

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