Remember, You Are Not Your Child’s Teacher

Photo: Oleksandr Berezko, Shutterstock
Photo: Oleksandr Berezko, Shutterstock

The other day, I randomly came across a post I wrote way back at the beginning of April when we were just 2-3 weeks into the pandemic. It was titled, “If You’re Struggling to Parent Right Now, You’re Not Alone,” and it reads now like a time capsule of grief. It brought me instantly back to how long, stressful, and endless those first few weeks felt.

We’ve come so far since the early days of the pandemic, but we realise now that we’ve still got a long way to go. This school year is going to be so bizarre that we named this year’s back-to-school theme week at Lifehacker “Back-ish To School Week.” I wanted to end Back-ish To School Week by taking a collective deep breath and reminding ourselves of something important.

This school year is going to be many things (I personally have plenty of labels for it, but there’s no need for me to type out all those curse words here). But unless you actually pulled your child out of their school and committed to homeschooling them this year, there is one thing we need to remember this is not: This is not homeschooling. And you are not your child’s teacher.

I don’t mean to imply that we don’t have a long spring, summer, and possibly autumn ahead of us. My son is starting on a hybrid schedule next week and will be learning at home on a Chromebook three days a week. I am not looking forward to all the technical difficulties, complaints about Zoom, and unexplained disappearance of digital assignments that were completed but apparently not submitted. But also? I am not his teacher.

I will be here to support him because I love him and I want to reduce his stress during all of this. But our kids need to learn how to communicate their needs and their personal stumbling blocks with their teachers, the same way they would if they were in the classroom.

If our kids are struggling — when our kids struggle — they can work with their teachers to come up with solutions. If our kids are old enough to read and write, we can work with them on how to write a polite message or email, asking their teacher for help or additional instruction or clarification. If they’re not old enough to read and write, we can schedule a time for them to talk with their teacher so they can explain what they’re having a hard time with.

But that’s not the same as sitting down and actually trying to teach them the material ourselves. That’s not the same as trying to re-learn third grade maths using a different method than we were taught, as I found myself doing last spring. Third grade maths was my limit; if he needs help with fourth grade maths, he’s going to have to take it up with his teacher, a person who is not me. We are here to help facilitate, not educate.

I know not all situations are created equal. Parents of students with special needs: I see you. I know your challenges are great, if not impossible. But remember: You are not their teacher. If this year is an absolute disaster (and it very well might be), it’s not your fault. You are their parent and you’re doing the best you can.

And if you are still struggling to parent right now, nearly six months into this pandemic, you’re still not alone.

Log in to comment on this story!