I had a phone conference with my publisher a little over a week ago and he said something that really stuck in my craw- he questioned that I am a legitimate expert regarding kids’ issues.
“Yeah…” he continued, “being a teacher doesn’t make you an expert. I mean, when was the last time a parent goes into a school and asks to see a really good teacher because their kids won’t eat their vegetables? They go to a doctor. You’re just not an authority in that arena.”
That’s when I heard that giant record scratch, the music stops, and it’s about to get really intense.
Mind you, this man does not have children; he’s never had to go to anybody about ANY children’s issues. That’s when I should have just let it go in one ear and out the other. But I tend to be a little — what’s the word — obsessive about certain issues, so I stewed. I mulled. I percolated.
I vented to my husband yesterday for, like, the eight thousandth time, listing all the point that DO indeed qualify me to be an authority in parenting. He patiently listened (bless him!) to which he finally said, “You should write them all down and use that for your promotions.” He’s right! At the risk of sounding pompous, I DO need to build a case for why I am a good person to listen to when it comes to raising a child. Just suppose I get successful enough that people start to notice me. Critics love to tear people a new one. I better get working on my best game play. In the spirit of an good offense being the strongest defense, I offer to you why I AM an expert, dagnabbit:
- I’m a mother of two great kids. My daughter is a sweet, sensitive ten year old who’s compliant and has never been in trouble at school. She gets good grades and excels at gymnastics. My three and a half year old is a happy, social butterfly. He’s very well adjusted and his emotions are well regulated. I must be doing something right.
- I had a rough childhood. When I say not to do something because it will hurt the child emotionally, believe it.
- I’ve done the work. Yes, I was scarred. I had a nervous breakdown at 17. I had panic attacks. I made bad choices when I was younger. I’ve been in and out of therapy. I know the different approaches to take for wellness because I either was taught the tools by another expert, or I learned them doing my own research.
- I read. I always look to others to learn more about a topic. If I have a theory about something, I can find and document the literature to back me up.
- I’ve been a coach. I’ve run with middle schoolers as they do their distance perimeters around our school. I’ve pushed them to excel as they cross the finish line.
- I’ve been a musical director. You want a challenge? Try getting thirty kids on stage, singing and dancing their hearts out.
- I have a degree in Education. The training includes psychology, educational theory, child/adolescent development and behavior/classroom management.
- I have observed thousands of students. Not must my own students, but I must observe an entire building to monitor the safety of our school. I keep a watchful eye. I notice trends. I see what parents do not see, in a variety of settings: classroom, hallway, cafeteria… I can tell you who’s changing their outfits after getting out of a parent’s car. I know what they eat for lunch. Who just broke up with whom. If they use potty mouth. The walls have ears, and they’re attached to my head.
- I have observed at least double that amount of parents. With all my classes over sixteen years, track teams, and theatre productions, that’s easily over 10,00 parents I’ve interacted with. I see what’s been working… and what’s been not working. I’ve even asked parents who have great kids what’s their secret.
- As a teacher, I document success and failure. After meticulously recording data in order to track progress and ultimately assigning a grade, I must then analyze it all to identify trends and adjust my approach to reach more students. It’s what good educators do. I can tell when students are not applying themselves. I know when a kid is not happy. Or tired. Or high. We are trained to spot warning signs and instructed how to get at risk students help.
So yeah… I think being a teacher makes me an expert.
My district has parent teacher conferences this week. Make it your #153Promise this week to touch base with your children’s teachers and ask them how your kid is doing and how you can support them to achieve their best. Trust that the teachers have your kids’ best interests at heart. And believe them.
After all, we are experts.