Friday, May 22, 2009

You Can Take the Teacher Out of the Classroom...

I don't volunteer much at my childrens' schools. I know as a SAHM I'm supposed to. But I don't. And it's not out of laziness or lack of interest in my childrens' lives. Honest. I DID volunteer today and I was reminded of EXACTLY why I don't.

Yesterday I was (mildly) lamenting my lack of a professional life, but the truth is that when I WAS a professional, I was a teacher. Our dress code was a little different than that of the women in my husband's office. (and the woman in the picture) Yesterday I was missing something I'd never had. But that's not what I set out to talk about.

I set out to talk about why I don't volunteer.

Today was Liv's Stunts and Studies day. This is an excellent program that our middle school has been doing with it's fifth graders for around 20 years. It combines traditional field day activities with "are you smarter than a fifth grader" type questions. So for each 'stunt' they must correctly answer a question taken directly from the fifth grade curriculum to earn a point for their team. I think it's a really cool way to integrate academics into a fun day. It is also very well organized and both times I've worked it, it has run like clockwork. This cannot be said for every experience I've had in my childrens' schools, so I need to give credit where it is due. It's saying a lot, too - since it involves the entire fifth grade - 18 classes, each with approximately 30 students. Organizing an activity for that many eleven year olds that runs that smoothly is impressive indeed.

And you're thinking, "That's swell, Tammy, but you're off on a tangent again. I thought you were going to tell us why you don't volunteer. All you've done so far is brag on your kid's school and tell us what a great experience this is. Have you been tested for adult ADD? Because you can't stay on topic for love or money, and I should know. I've offered you both."

Isn't it amazing? My ability to read your mind? And I would totally stay on topic for money.


I was not off-topic. I was merely setting the stage.

As soon as I was given my assignment, I went into teacher mode. And THAT is why I don't volunteer. I was not there to be a teacher, I was there to be a parent. I just have never been able to properly sort out those roles in a school setting. Right from the start - we were given name tags. I wrote my name on mine before I saw anyone else's. As I started to see them, I saw things like "Mr. Jeff (Mark's Dad)" and "First Name/Last Name Go Team Blue!" and things like that. Mine said "Mrs. Howard". It was printed very neatly and legibly in letters an appropriate size for the name tag so that nothing was scrunched and there wasn't a lot of white space. I didn't put any thought into that, that's just what I automatically did.

I immediately took charge of the sixth grade students who had been assigned to help me. When they got out of line, I didn't hesitate to get out of my chair and remind them of their responsibilities. Other parent volunteers were treating the sixth grade volunteers like equal members of their team. Not me. I had to be in charge. (And you can bet that before the busses arrived this afternoon, "Mrs. Howard is a bitch." was uttered at least once. Perhaps not erroneously.) I found myself instructing the other adult volunteer on my team, too. (Which might not have been necessary if she'd put down her phone and just read the instructions she'd been given. But I digress.)

I was in charge, and I liked it. Except that I had next to no authority. Didn't stop me for a second from acting like I did.

I learned before Lea was out of kindergarten that I needed to stay out of the classroom because these teachers had asked for a parent volunteer, not a mentor. I'd taught for so long - I knew a thing or two about - and what you need to do here is... I would have hated a parent like me when it was my classroom. I didn't want to be that parent. I couldn't NOT be that teacher. I just had to step away from the whole situation.

I quit teaching completely almost a year ago. I haven't taught young people in over seven years. I thought maybe it was safe to go back into a classroom.

I thought wrong.

So I can't volunteer. I'll continue to support in my own ways. It's cool.


MiMi said...

In my little guys school, they would probably like having a parent like you! Most of the time they deal with parents who can barely get their kid to school on time, let alone try to help with something other than lighting your cigarette and passing the beer. I'm still kind of reeling from the fact you have 18 fifth grade classes. We don't have 18 classes all together, KG - 8th!

MiMi said...

Ooh, I just came up with you think they call you the volunteer nazi? I worked with a supply nazi, a polishing nazi, and just a general jerk who I was pretty sure was a regular old nazi. Hmm. : )

Shannon Baskind said...

A+! :-)

Pam said...

I've never thought about how hard it would be for teacher to volunteer in the classroom. I volunteered quite a bit when my kids were in elementary school, but I never really enjoyed it all that much. I felt like it was something I was SUPPOSED to do because I was a SAHM. As soon as I could, I stoppped volunteering in the classroom, but I would still chaperone fieldtrips (which I also didn't like all that much). But now that Madeleine is just about finished with Middle School, all my potential volunteer duties are over. I'm completely OK with that. Wow, I sound like a horrible mother. I promise, I'm really not that bad. :)

WhisperingWriter said...

I don't volunteer because I know I wouldn't have the patience. Plus I have a two-year-old at home as well. Maybe when she starts school I'll attempt to volunteer but I'm not sure..

Tammy Howard said...

MiMi - yeah, we're a pretty large district - and growing every day. Growing faster than the schools can accommodate the growth, actually. Both my kids did a year of elementary school in a trailer. It's ridiculous.

Shannon - why thank you, sir!

Pam - we have a 'bad moms club' which you'll no doubt be hearing about soon, as our next outing is scheduled for next weekend. Perhaps you can be an honorary member... :-)

WW - I used the youngest as a reason not to volunteer much for the eldest - then by the time the youngest came up I already had a rep as 'not much of a volunteer-er'. Didn't hurt my feelings a bit. :-)

The Devil's Daughter-In-Law said...

Well, good for you! Nobody needs a mutiny by a bunch of spring-fevered 6th graders!

Grand Pooba said...

Sounds like you need to start teaching again!

Debbie said...

I can't help but get in "leader" mode wherever I am. It is just my personality.

Denise K. said...

Oh this post just hit home for me!!! I think you have finally helped me identify what is a major problem of mine! I too am a former teacher and want to just take over when I arrive in the kids' classrooms! I hate to say it, but I always end up leaving and thinking to myself, "If I were in charge I could do this so much better!" hee hee :-) Thanks for a great post and it's nice to "meet you!"
With love from Colorado,
Denise :-)

MaryRC said...

i feel much the same way. im an in charge kinda gal and i expect kids to listen to me. we had a field day and my son asked me why i was yelling at the kids the next day at school. i had no recollection of yelling. i was explaining the rules of the game and when a student was out, i would shout, "YOUR OUT"

im not a teacher and i dont have alot of patience with kids. my excuse is im saving my patience reserve for teenage years.

so tammy i can totally relate.

Alex the Girl said...

Ha ha ha. And you only touched on one problem being a parent and a teacher can present. I can't count the number of times my daughter has asked me to stop using the "teacher" voice when doing homework with her. It's incredible, isnt' it.

Gibby said...

I never thought about how it would be for a teacher to volunteer. I help out a little, but too much and my head would explode. I have the opposite problem, as in, I never know where my boundary is. Can I tell that kid to shut up, or would that be crossing the line? Can I separate those two kids who are fighting? Or does the teacher do that?

I could go on, but don't want to hog your comment space. Perhaps I need to post about it...

Unknown Mami said...

I stopped by per Gibby's suggestion and it's true your blog is great! I'll be stopping by regularly.

Jenni Jiggety said...

You can come into my classroom and teach! I'll go and lie down in the nurses office for a bit... ;-D

countryfriedmama said...

This is one of my great fears as a mom and teacher, but I know exactly what you're saying. I would be out there with my teacher voice. My kids are doomed.