Ben Kissam is a writer, standup comedian, coach, and former middle school teacher. His blog, coachk.co, offers satirical advice for self-improvement and achievement.
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The teacher vs. parent dynamic is real for many teachers. Juggling the responsibilities of raising their own children while raising other people's children is no easy task. Teacher-parents who spend their whole day around kids have a tough time managing their time and energy, and students and kids alike can feel the effects of that.
But being a teacher-parent is totally doable with the right tools. Here are four tips to help you make the teacher vs. parent dynamic work.
Further Reading: The First Day of Kindergarten: An Open Letter to Parents
If there's one thing that enables a teacher-parent to effectively manage their hectic lifestyle, it's good communication. Today's teacher-parents must foster strong relationships with their children and their students, and that can only happen through open, honest communication.
Clearly communicating classroom changes, project expectations, or curriculum details to your students and school community is already a teaching best practice. Carrying that communication over to your family allows you to cultivate healthy relationships with your kids, and it encourages them to share their feelings and thoughts as well. The trick is not letting one form of communication interfere with another—answering parents' emails at night when you could be talking with your kids is a no-no.
Talk to your kids about their boundaries, too. Do they need your advice about school, or would they prefer to ask their teacher? Would they like you to teach them school material, or would they rather you play with them after they've finished their homework? If they attend the school where you work, what kinds of interactions are they comfortable with during the school day? Respecting their boundaries is just as important as setting your own.
You should also educate your spouse about the difficulties of being a teacher-parent. Does your spouse know it's hard for you to get the kids to do homework after you've spent all day trying to get your students to complete their work? Do they know how draining it can be to not have adult time after work? Talk with your partner to build a system together that works for everyone.
Keeping your cool during parent-teacher conferences can be the most challenging part of being a parent and a teacher. But you'll save time and mental energy by acknowledging which role is appropriate ahead of the meeting. Ask yourself: do I need to be a teacher or a parent right now? Then, put on the right cap.
If you're visiting with your child's teacher, refrain from micromanaging or insisting on your teacher perspective. Most teachers don't appreciate that, says a teacher-parent in The Guardian, and it might make your child's teacher hesitant to involve you with things down the road.
Instead of comparing or judging, set an example. Focus on doing your job well, both as a parent and as a teacher. Help your child's teacher if you can, but only if they ask for it. If you're the best option to answer questions, your children will come to you for answers, but try not to be upset if they go to their teachers instead. As teachers, we're all in this together.
Your number one job as a teacher-parent is to manage your energy.
Parenting, lesson planning, and teaching are hard to juggle, and if you're burned out, all your responsibilities will suffer.
To keep all your teacher-parent plates spinning, focus on:
Being your best self as a teacher-parent requires presence. If you're chronically scrambling or playing catch-up, it's hard to be in the moment—regardless of the role you're playing. And your children, your students, and the adults you interact with will surely notice.
Can you save more time in the classroom? What's your work-life balance like? Are you prioritizing tasks properly? Buying back a few minutes here and there can add up and help you balance being a teacher and a parent.
Further Reading: 5 Keys to Establishing a Healthy Teacher-Student Relationship
Give yourself room to breathe so you can actually enjoy your teaching and parenting responsibilities. It's a unique dynamic, but you can do it by reserving your time and energy, clearly communicating with your students and family, and being a great teacher-parent role model.