“’But mum, I don’t understand the equation.”

Whoops, did I just call Mrs. Jones ‘mum’?

This is a common mistake: a student calling their teacher ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, saying “love you” or writing “XOXO”. Although awkward and misplaced, it makes sense– An average school-age child spends more time in school with their teachers than at home with their own parents.

Parents have the challenge of raising their children to be equipped to live independently in this big crazy world, to let them know that they are not perfect, but that they are unique, loved and that they belong. Do all parents do this well? Are there gaps for us as teachers to fill? Definitely. Maybe we as educators can take some of the responsibility.

Aristotle said, 

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.

As educators, we are not competing with parents or taking over their job. Rather, we have a unique opportunity to focus on what the individual child needs in different environments. Although Aristotle’s quote was spoken in a totally different time and culture, it contains truth. The teachers in our life can give something truly precious: change of worldview, which results in character development. We place a bigger stamp on our student’s life than we realize.

Perhaps we as teachers can help the parents and the child beyond delivering mere content by being more open. Be the teacher you wanted to have when you were younger. What would you appreciate?

  • Open your mind
    What is in your mind to help them change their view of the world? Share your revelations of life with them! And vice versa, what can you as a teacher learn from them?
  • Open your hand
    Nobody is perfect, not even the teacher who is sometimes unjustifiably angry, not even the student with that bad grade. Let us help each other. What do you as a teacher have in your hands to help them? Maybe by explaining things one on one, spending extra time, sending a card from the class to a student in hospital, etc.? Go that extra mile.
  • Open your heart
    What is unique about this student? Encourage them and speak out what you see. Chances are, you see something in them they can’t see themselves. Express how you value them. Even though our authoritative side can clash with our vulnerability, the students need it. Be vulnerable in LOVING them first, no matter what. Maybe you are the only person in their world who is able to express to them their value. What in your heart can help them?

Let’s be generous in our openness to express real love first. By making the first step, they will respond. Then the process of learning from each other and helping each other become better can begin.


Author: Anouk van de Put (PE High School Teacher from The Netherlands)