An Ode to Teachers: The Good, The Not-Too-Bad, and The I-Tried-SO-HARD
With millions of people instantly thrust into the role of “homeschool teacher” during the pandemic, I empathized with the deer-in-the-headlights feeling that parents around the country were facing. It’s terrifying to hold your child’s educational future in your hands — especially if you consider yourself numerically dyslexic, science averse, or grammar-phobic.
If you’re like most parents who struggle with the basics (like getting your kids to eat a green veggie), the thought of putting on your teacher hat and enforcing “quiet time” for quadratic equations literally sent chills down your spine. (Ironically, alcohol sales skyrocketed during 2020. Correlation?) One parent nicely summed up the homeschooling challenges on Twitter, writing, “If you had asked me what the hardest part of battling a global pandemic would be I would have never guessed, ‘teaching elementary school math.’” Another parent, Sue, shared a selfie on Day 5 of homeschooling.
I hear ya, Sue.
Teaching kids — especially your own — is harder than trying to carry all 13 grocery bags into the house at once so you can make it one trip. (I think I can, I think I can).
This made me fondly recall my own homeschooling (mis)adventures with my own two boys (now 21 and 24). It seems like just yesterday when my days focused on deep dives into long division, verb tenses, cursive writing, colonial life, and baking soda volcano experiments. The difference? Unlike the pandemic-induced wave of homeschooling newbies, I chose the path of ditching public school to be an educational deviant. In fact, I put my career on hold for a decade to raise and educate my two boys. Was it worth it? Absolutely! Was it easy? Almost never.
But here’s an insider’s secret. It’s okay if teaching at home didn’t go well every day. The fact that you showed up, every day, to mold young minds is laudable. It’s also laughable.
To prove my point, I asked my sons about some of their most memorable homeschooling experiences. I envisioned hearing the highlights reel about how we made handcrafted root beer (in honor of Boston brewer Samuel Adams) to tie into our American history studies, the lively Renaissance festival we attended (complete with a comical jousting match), or eating spanakopita while wearing togas during our study of Ancient Greece.
Instead, guess what homeschooling gems my boys shared?
- The time I screamed, “I hate science!” when our backyard water experiment failed to demonstrate how rivers create tributaries. What was supposed to be a trickle of water into a shallow pan of sand to create a web of small streams (hello, tributaries) turned into a tsunami lesson (thanks to my shaky hands) about how the force of water could wipe out an entire village in seconds. #sciencefail
- The time my younger son decided to eat the salt dough as a snack instead of using it to create a map of Africa during a geography lesson. There may have been vomiting involved. “I thought it was gonna taste good,” he recalls. “It didn’t.” Shocker. #geonausea
- The time I tried to infuse a little fun into our math lesson using a Twister mat to teach my boys multiplication. I wrote problems on the colored circles and they shouted out the answers, placing hands and feet on the correct circles. I forgot about their competitive streak — a sibling rivalry on par with Mufasa and Scar from The Lion King. It turned into a violent wrestling match that nearly turned my family of four into a family of three. #mathdebacle
If you’ve ever whispered, “Alexa, homeschool the kids” during this past year, you can relate.
Your kids may have gone back to in-person schooling this year, or you might still be knee-deep in the homeschooling trenches. Either way, soak in some of the lessons you learned along the way: You don’t have to know everything, your kids can learn even when it feels like a fail, and you’re creating unforgettable moments along the way. Just ask my kids.
And, even if your homeschooling adventure might be a one-and-done experience, its many challenges reinforced a new appreciation for how teachers (the good, the not-too-bad, and the I-tried-so-hard) can impact students and mold their future.
This post is part of a series honoring beloved teachers who make a difference with their kindness, love, and wisdom each day. Thank you to all of our educators from all of us at CircleAround.com. To read other stories in this series, please click here.