Inbred instruction
January 17, 2014 2:39 PM   Subscribe

My wife will be teaching at the same private school where our six-year-old son is a student. In fact, he will be one of her students. What can we do to better handle this situation?

Especially interested in others who have gone through the same sort of situation.

More details: My wife teaches art and will be teaching this to my six year old in 45 minute classes to a variety of ages and grades, but one of these classes, twice a week, will have my six-year-old. He is somewhat a distracted, hyper, attention-deficit child, but we have found with the right teacher he can sit still, participate and be a good student. However, there are definitely times at home in which he will try to manipulate us, push the boundaries, sometimes in trying to get out of homework. (Same as any child?) There are about twelve students to a class.

Is there something she needs to do to deal with possible conflicts with other students (concerns of favoritism)? What other problems will we run into? It's a Catholic school and the kids seem pretty disciplined.
posted by dances_with_sneetches to Education (16 answers total)
It's very interesting to contemplate, but teaching involves adopting a persona, and your son will react to that teaching persona, and not to your wife's persona as a parent, as long as she stays in character.

This means she can't treat your son any differently than she would other students.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:42 PM on January 17, 2014

Oh hey, I did that. Similar situation when I was in elementary school (my Mom taught one of those rotating classes like your wife will), but then switched to teaching middle school when I was in 4th grade and then when I was in 6th grade I ended up having her as a real teacher in middle school.

It wasn't a big deal, because we didn't make it one. She was a good person and a good teacher and when other kids were like "omg isn't that terrible to have to have your mom as a teacher" I would shrug and say I liked my mom so no, it wasn't really a big deal. The favoritism stuff never came up, though it was a more objective class but I mean... it's 6-year-old Art, she's not exactly giving out serious grades.

It will only be a big deal if your wife makes it one, basically.
posted by brainmouse at 2:44 PM on January 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

My mother taught pre-school and at five, I took her class a few days a week.

It was weird. I would sometimes feel jealous of her paying attention to other students, which, as an adult, I could see was pretty silly. But I was five, and she was my mommy, only she wasn't acting like it.

I would do what you could to avoid this.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:46 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I went to the same elementary school where my mom was a teacher, and it was easily the worst part of my childhood. The main problem was that my teachers would go straight to my mother when I made a bad grade, misbehaved, or said something stupid. This made me uptight and paranoid. Your wife shouldn't entertain these conversations.
posted by lunalaguna at 3:18 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've taught art in private schools for close to 20 years. In that time, I've seen this sort of scenario many times. It will likely be perfectly fine, however most schools require that the student be in another teacher's class - and personally, I think that's the best way to go about it. Might not be possible, though.

Ignore the "'s 6-year-old Art, she's not exactly giving out serious grades." That's just the voice of someone who doesn't know the importance of art in elementary education.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:33 PM on January 17, 2014

Similarly to what lunalaguna said, my old roommate and long time friend dealt with this from late k-8 into highschool.

It was awful for the reasons they stated and more. It pretty much created no real separation between the home environment and school where you usually get to sort of socially "explore" a bit more without direct parental supervision for those reasons, and just generally created a weird/crappy/undesirable environment.

She still brings it up once in a while to this day, in her mid 20s as something she utterly hated and wished she could have avoided.

It's worth noting that she rarely had class with her parent too. It was just that they were always around, and gossipy teacher crap, tattling kids, etc.

I also attended a private(catholic!) elementary school where one of the teachers had several of her own kids attend. I didn't really realize it at the time, but looking back that also seemed pretty crappy for similar reasons. The school my roommate attended was a very small(like 300 students or less at a time) alternative school so it would likely be a pretty similar environment.
posted by emptythought at 3:35 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your kid is old enough to understand some of this. Have a talk with him and try to explain that when he is at school, he should pretend that his mom is just another teacher and that she will be pretending that he's just another student. Make it a game, if you think that would help -- a role-playing game. Maybe tie a minor reward and punishment system (age appropriate, of course) to the game such that he gets a small reward on days when he does a good job of pretending, and a small punishment on days when he does badly. Mom gets rewards/punishments too, to keep the game fair and fun.
posted by Scientist at 3:51 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am a first grade teacher at a Chinese/English dual language school and one of my co-workers was a dual language teacher at my school (English portion of a K/1 class). She taught her daughter for kindergarten and first grade. Her daughter called her "Mrs. ______" at school and took it in stride. It worked out fine for both. When I was a girl scout, people's mothers led the girl scout troop. It's not a ton different.
posted by mermily at 3:56 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

My mother taught at the Catholic school we were at when we were 5-8. My brother had her for a teacher. I don't remember it being a problem at all. She made a big effort not to show favouritism (perhaps going too far the other way sometimes), and the other kids understood that he was treated a little different (not better, but e.g. that if he fell and hurt himself, she would physically comfort him more than she would a random child, and so on).

The one thing I thought was hilarious, but that makes good sense, is that he had to call her "Mrs Lastname" instead of "Mum" in class. I think that helped him remember that he was in school and had to behave properly.
posted by lollusc at 3:56 PM on January 17, 2014

Oh, and I personally didn't find it terrible to have my Mum be one of the teachers. I thought it was AWESOME. It meant that sometimes we had the other teachers around to our house, and I kind of hero-worshipped them at that age. And I found out secrets sometimes, like when my teacher was pregnant I knew before all the other kids. It would have been different (much, much worse) in high school or even as an older primary school kid. Or if I'd hated any of the teachers. But as a little 5-8 year-old, it was great.
posted by lollusc at 3:59 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

My anecdote: my dad was my teacher at some point in early elementary school, probably the Montessori equivalent of grade 1 or 2, so a similar age to your son. It did not go well. I basically always refused to learn anything from my father, and that continued in the classroom. All I actually remember from that time was spending a lot of time standing in the corner (the standard punishment for misbehaving kids at that school). In normal life, he usually treated me as an equal (I was a pretty well behaved kid and didn't tend to need a lot of discipline) and I considered him as an equal, and I would absolutely not accept him in the role of a teacher (whether at school or at home). I think he made other arrangements for me, because I don't recall this situation lasting very long. We had and continue to have a great relationship in every other sense, though.

I don't know that there was anything my father could has done differently to make this work; he certainly tried. A lot probably depends on your son's personality.
posted by Emanuel at 4:46 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a former Catholic school teacher, I saw this a lot and I don't think it will be a problem at all. Many parishes have parents come in to teach "specials" like art, phys ed, or music - some parents even volunteer to teach those subjects. Think of it like your wife is your kid's softball coach. You're only talking 2 - 45 minute sessions a week - that is a blip.

And it is art your wife teaches! Not math or reading which are areas where some kids struggle. In my 25 year teaching career, I don't think I have ever seen a kid that didn't love taking art. They get to have fun and make stuff and get dirty - squishy clay and bright colored paint! At 6 years old, there's no tests or quizzes to study for either, so the pressure is off the kids and they can just explore their creativity. So I don't see parents crying foul about grades or kids complaining to him about her. Again, it's a Catholic school so discipline is not a problem anyway. As long as your child understands that your wife is going to treat him no differently than the other students during school time, everyone will be fine.

One little thing your wife could do is make up a system for how she selects which students get to do things - like hand out supplies or chose materials first. One way is to put each student's name on one end of a tongue depressor or popsicle stick and put them in a pencil cup names down. Students are selected for jobs by random draws from the cup, but their stick is placed back in upside down (name up) so they can't be selected again until all students have had a turn. The kids will see that your wife is being fair to all.
posted by NoraCharles at 6:00 PM on January 17, 2014

this isn't your problem, your wife's problem or your kid's problem, it's the school administration's problem. your wife can best cope with the situation by ensuring that your kid has a lunchbox with a tasty, nutritious sandwich, a piece of fruit and no more than two homemade chocolate chip cookies.
posted by bruce at 7:10 PM on January 17, 2014

Thank you for your answers. I think I have a better picture of the challenges. It will hard to pick a best.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:37 AM on January 18, 2014

Just chiming in with another experience. My mum taught me when I was 5 or 6 in a small town in the UK, covering for our usual teacher who was on maternity leave. I thought it was awesome. The other kids did too from what I can remember, and they were jealous and wanted their mums to be teaching!

I was a little bit naughty, not hyper though. As I remember, I tried to act up once, and got put down hard. Didn't do that again...
posted by derbs at 8:16 AM on January 18, 2014

I'm seeing her tonight, actually. I'll ask her what her experience was and report back if you'd like.
posted by derbs at 8:27 AM on January 18, 2014

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