Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Teacher: Not the mama!

It's true. This happens... this exact situation, in which a child momentarily forgets that the person currently tying shoes, wiping noses, prompting manners, and imploring life lessons is not necessarily his/her mom, but is just a teacher. It really is an all-too-common scenario. The first time a student slipped up and called me "mom," was the strangest experience I had encountered in any of my teaching schooldays to that point. My immediate response was to correct them, with an affirmative, "No, I'm not your mother, dear," because no one can even begin to attempt to fill the shoes of mother in a child's life.  Then I realized that, on that particular day, for that particular child, I really was the closest thing to a mom that she would know. Situations such as this are a grim reality of our society today, and it makes the role of a teacher an even greater weight to carry at times. There are children who walk into your classroom and need you to fulfill some form of a a mom-like role. There will be days when it just feels natural for them to call you, "Mom." Every child needs someone to call by that name, after all. 

Then, there are other children who have perfectly amazing, incredible mothers at home. When these children experience this slip of the tongue, an expression of complete embarrassment immediately follows on their sweet little faces. Those children need no correction from me; they are quick to remind me that I am "not the mama" (please tell me someone remembers that 90's quote...?!?). During one lunch conversation earlier this year, one student slipped up several times and began to speak to me, yet again, by saying "Mom..." She finally slapped her little fist down on the table and said, "Well, you're just so much like her... it gets me all confused sometimes when I get in a hurry to tell you something..." I told her I would take that as a compliment because her mother is a pretty amazing woman. Naturally, this six-year-old responded, "Yeah. She's cool. But you're Mrs. Tally. Now what I was trying to say was..."

By this point, I've grown accustomed to these did-I-really-just-call-my-teacher-mom moments. Depending on the child, these situations can make me sad at times; but in general, they really reflect the strength of a relationship that can form between teachers and their students. Today, I hugged many of my students for the final time in their first-grade year. I wished them well and sent them off into a childhood summer. I couldn't help but think that next year, they'll be another teacher's second-grader. Of course, I'll have new kiddos to adore. I'll have new opportunities to be "mom" as needed. There's just something special about each group of students, and this class, in particular, has taught me so much about life in first grade. They will be missed.

I leave you with a final conversation between myself and one of my students earlier this week:

Student: "Mrs. Tally, have you ever been a mommy? Ever? In your life?"
Me: "No. Once you become a mommy, you stay a mommy."
Student: "Well. Do you want to be one?"
Me: "Eventually... Why? Do you think I should be a mommy?"
Student: "No."
    I have to note that she wasted no time giving that response...
Me: "Really? And why not?"
Student: "Because I love you, and I don't want that baby to take you away. I want to at least be able to see you in the hall next year. If a baby gives you have another job, I won't have you at all anymore."