Parents, you are your children’s most important, most influential teachers. May you never forget this truth.
I was sitting watching my own daughters at an athletic event recently. I had a text book in my lap, so you might say, I was killing two birds with one stone. It was one of those rare, lazy afternoons when one could have just as easily drifted off for an afternoon siesta for a minute or two. But instead of relaxing — after a while, it became impossible for me to ignore a conversation going on behind me. The voices were loud enough that anyone within earshot could clearly hear the details of a very private conversation, unpacking the sordid events of local domestic abuse. Someone this person knew intimately. Disturbing details jumped out at me — and I became increasingly uncomfortable listening in.
I continued to follow the conversation — hard not to, it was unfolding right behind me — and the part that I couldn’t shake was an image of the children described in conversation. Children caught up in adult problems, left to deal with the aftermath of something no child should ever have to see, experience or know.
I shifted my attention for a moment and watched my own beautiful children go by — looking at me every so often so as to make sure I was aware they were there: ensuring that both my eyes were solely on them. And I thought to myself- you have no idea, my precious babies. None. No idea what some children are going through at this very instant. What some babies have to listen to before they go to bed. What some little girls have to hear, have to feel. No idea what some little boys must see before they are old enough to even realize what is happening. You have no idea. My beautiful, innocent children. You move past me like angels — full of hope. Full of joy. May you never have to know the difference.
As a teacher, I view the children in my class- indeed, in our school, as if they were my very own. They are my kids while under my watch. I take that responsibility as seriously as I do raising my own four children. There is a trust in passing one’s child over to another adult- a trust based on mutual understanding. The understanding is this: parents give me their most precious treasures to look after all day long, and it is understood that I will care for that treasure in the best ways I know how.
Parents, when you pass the baton to us at 8:25 a.m. each and every morning, it is understood that the primary teacher is you. We know that those children have just spent their sleeping and then waking hours at home. We understand that you are giving us your best. Your beloved offspring- and you give them over to us to look after for the next eight hours. We do not take this responsibility lightly. Might I also say that when we return those precious children home again at the end of the day, we don’t stop caring? They are still in our hearts? They are still on our minds? We love them.
So when we are out in public and we hear stories of children who have been hurt or harmed in irreparable ways in the care of their parents, it gives us pause as teachers to examine our role in relation to yours. And to suggest, to you parents: you are not alone in this. We support you. We are there for you. We want to help you. We love your babies, your precious boys. Your beautiful little girls. And we recognize that your child is learning lessons about life from you that they will not soon forget: so parents, make those life lessons unforgettable in positive, beautiful ways. Let your child see that you can raise your head in pride for the lessons you’ve passed on to them. Let their first teacher — YOU — be their best teacher ever.
Parents, as teachers we are here for you. We know that this parenting gig is a tough one. We know that life happens, things go on in our everyday lives which we can’t control. But parents, know this: you can be amazing at something — and that’s being you child’s number one teacher.
Teach your children well — teach them about life and love and joy and sorrow. Teach them to be honest and kind. Teach them to be thoughtful and generous. Teach your children to care for others. Let your own life be the living textbook that your children read. May it be among the most inspiring books they ever open!
Parents, we can do this together. You’re amazing! And you are the very best teacher your child can come to know.