Going to school was a pretty fun experience for me. I had friends, played on sports teams, and learned more gooder than some of my classmates; but not as gooder as others. Yet a lot of times, my “school” experience didn’t stop when I went home: I was the son of two teachers.
After over 25 years of teaching in the classroom, my dad, George, just recently retired from public school education, but recently accepted the superintendent position at the private school my three brothers and I went to as we grew up. He is a versatile educator, with experience ranging from 3rd grade up to Language Arts for middle school.
My mom, LeAnn, is also a very talented instructor, having taught kids from third grade all the way up to the high school level. She currently teaches middle school kids (Lord, have mercy) at a charter school 20 minutes from home. My mom is the definition of a life-long learner: during her summer “breaks”, she studies and plans and investigates and analyzes the subject areas she teaches.
When I was In primary school, I felt like my educational experiences were pretty normal. My parents were my parents. I don’t really remember their profession playing a pivotal role in my life until 3rd grade. Then, something crazy happened: my mom became my TEACHER!
Mini Mr. Graham attended a small private school in Roseburg, Oregon called Umpqua Valley Christian School. I went to UVC all 13 years of my early academic career. Out of 13 grades, I had my mommy as a teacher for FIVE of them!! FIVE! That’s over half! I think… I tend to blame my teachers for my struggles in intelligence.
Depending on my maturity levels, having my mom as a teacher was all over the spectrum. In 3rd grade, it was AMAZING for many reasons: I got to go to school early to play the computer games; kids like teachers at that age, so I was a “cool kid” since my mom was the teacher; and at school, I never had to worry about being picked on or neglected by the teacher (it was technically illegal for that to happen).
In 6th grade, it was AWESOME! Until she found out about my crush. And that I frequently made messes in the lunchroom. And that I mocked a few 5th graders for being chubby. And that I intentionally didn’t do a MASSIVE journaling assignment… then lied about it (and consequently missed out on any sort of social life for the entire month of June).
Ok, so it started great, and then when I began exchanging brain cells for dum choices, it wasn’t as awesome as before. After finishing elementary school (we were K-6), I thought I was in the clear. Middle school and high school were ahead of me. I was free!
…Until my mom accepted a teaching job at the high school level my sophomore year. Now, as my History and Leadership teacher, she knew everything that happened in her classroom and on campus, even assignments other teachers handed out, or behaviors from students around the school! (Remember, it was a small school.)
Being a punk in high school now required more planning and discretion — something I just couldn’t perfect with my unfortunately increasing brain cell exchange rate. I didn’t get in trouble much, but when I did, I usually didn’t make it to the 4th period without hearing about a consequence I would receive at home from mi madre.
However, when I graduated, there were mixed emotions. I was “finally escaping the restrictive clamps of tyranny” (well, partially — if I want to be dramatic), but sad that I was leaving the school (and my mom) behind. I was lucky enough to spend many of my formative years with a parent right by my side, and now that was coming to a close. It was bittersweet knowing my mom wouldn’t be my teacher anymore. Unless that position at the community college opened up…
Truth be told, there were some extreme advantages of having parents as teachers. Looking back, I can clearly see how having educators as parents was fairly advantageous. Here are three things I picked out to try to convey the benefits of sharing a house with two teachers.
1. Summers were SUMMERS
One of the biggest reasons why I wanted to become a teacher (outside of wanting to save the world, of course) was because I experienced fantastic summers with my family. Since both of my parents were teachers, their summers lined up with ours, so trips were very frequent during that season, and not limited to “days off”.
Consequently, since both of my parents were teachers, we were operating on “teacher budget” vacations. In my opinion, my parents did well with what we had. Each summer, we’d have at least 3 trips planned, either camping on the coast over a weekend, visiting a neighbor state for a week, or even flying across the country to visit my southern relatives in Alabama, y’all.
“Teachers are lucky because they get summers off” is a phrase I hear frequently when some of my friends or random strangers need something to complain about. Although I want to defend my vocation, the argument has some truth to it. Having summers “off” is a massive perk to being a teacher!
2. My Brothers and I Had TWO “#1 Fans”
All the Graham boys were active with sports or music from the beginning. With crazy schedules and multiple sports teams to keep track of, my parents were still able to make it to a high percentage of our events. It was normal for both of my parents to be at sports events; it was usual to have both of my parents watch me miss my lay-ins.
One time in high school, I remember I had a friend who was all spazzy before a certain soccer game and I asked him why. He said his dad was finally coming to the game so he wanted to play well. Thinking about how my parents were always at my games, I had no idea how to empathize with what my friend was feeling.
Whether it was sports, or art shows, or band concerts, my parents were constantly supporting our interests, without putting extra pressure on us to perform.
I can recall my mom talking with her teacher friends on the soccer sideline, or at the basketball bleachers, and my dad taking us to ice cream after a concert, or grading papers down the first-base line in between at-bats. I hope to do something like that for my child(ren) as well.
3. Responsibility Wasn’t a Choice: It Was a Requirement
Sometimes, school can be an escape from home life. Students can be better behaved (and usually are), but inversely, they can also use the system: like avoiding homework or “forgetting” to return important forms due to parent-teacher communication breakdowns. “I sent that in with him yesterday” or “She never told me she had homework” are common phrases I hear every year.
As a child of two teachers, the “I don’t have homework” expression never made the cut. And, usually, it was my mom’s homework I was trying to avoid. The four of us were expected to do well at school, meaning homework and studying were normal; it was as inevitable as having cup-o-soup for lunch the next day.
My parents weren’t crazy though: it was understood that if you were pulling honest grades, you weren’t required to do anything extra or additional. It’s not like as soon as we stepped in the door, our noses were in books, nor were we reciting poetry betwixt balancing ionized formulas and graphing derivatives.
If our grades were good, we were good. So it’s not like my parents demanded perfection, or required 2 hours of dedicated study per day, or slapped our wrists with rulers when we tried to leave the kitchen table for a bathroom break. My parents encouraged us to do our best, and challenged us to have grades that represent what we know.
One of my brothers smartly took this to heart, and did exceptionally well throughout his high school career. He committed his time, energy, and intelligence to his studies, and accomplished something none of his brothers could do: become Valedictorian! #3 (Georgie) finished top of his senior class in 2012!
The sometimes-agitating, yet blessing-in-disguise theme of accountability made sure we were taught what all teachers want their “kids” to learn: responsibility and hard work pays off handsomely in the long run. Getting that truth from my classroom teachers, as well as having it modeled at home, was so blatantly obvious that even I couldn’t miss it.
Now that I’m a teacher, I’m becoming more and more grateful for what my parents taught me at home, and how that translates so well in a classroom of my own. My students are unknowingly being instructed in many of the life-lessons I learned from my mom and dad.
Now as an aspiring parent of an infant, I can look at my own parents as two great examples for how to support, encourage, challenge, and connect with my son. Maybe he’ll write a blog years in the future explaining what it was like having grandparents who were teachers…
My mom and dad served their students as well as their biological kids. There are easily more than three reasons why having teachers as parents was a great experience, but I’m afraid I’ve now foolishly passed my 1,300 word parameter. So with that, looks like I’m grounded and won’t be seeing anyone until July…