I was a teacher in Decatur, Georgia immediately after I graduated from Clark Atlanta University. I was thrust into a fourth-grade classroom with no student-teaching experience and I pretty much “Darwinismed” my way through the year, refusing to be defeated by a bunch of 9-year-olds. By the second semester, I was so connected to my students that I would take my girls to the nail shop with me on weekends, visit their homes to bond with their mothers, send gifts for their new siblings, etc. I loved them so much that I gave one of my boys my collector’s edition Tuskegee Airmen jacket because he loved the Red Tails. Then I became pregnant with my beautiful son toward the close of the school year and much to my surprise, I clocked out. I became obsessed with simply completing the year and getting to lie around all summer and be a beautiful, pregnant homemaker. My baby boy was born in November of the following school year and I had the hardest time returning to work. I went back when he was 6-weeks-old and I quit less than two months later. The same thing occurred two years later when I became pregnant with my daughter except that I did not quit, I simply endured through a year and a half of superiors expecting that my dedication be more allocated to their mission than to my own children.
Teaching at the Expense of Your Own
Teaching, as we all know, is a demanding profession however, unlike other demanding professions, teaching often requires that you assume a sense of dedication to the job, and to the children of the families that you serve—at the expense of nurturing and educating your own. I’ve often found myself staying up late with my children just to capture those vital moments at the peak of their learning capacity to compensate for the time that I had spent loving and teaching other people’s children. Teachers know no work-life balance, it is the job that is never finished. My children have spent countless hours after school sitting in my classroom while I prepare for my classes sometimes not getting home until after 9:00 p.m. We have spent entire weekends in my classroom advancing the mission of the school while neglecting my mission in my own household. My phone has rang in the late hours of the night with the inquiries of worried parents. My son has closed my laptop as his way of telling me that enough is enough.
As a teacher-mother, I often feel a sense of guilt and question my effectiveness in both roles. If I give too much to one, it often feels like the other will inevitably suffer. Students come to school with an abundance of baggage that teachers hold the responsibility of unloading before we are able to properly instruct them. We become family counselors and trusted advisors all while still being administrative assistants, custodians, physicians, lawyers and, the one thing that we signed up to be, teachers. We assume the responsibility of picking up the pieces that society, absentee fathers and misinformed mothers have left behind. We nurture the children who aren’t being hugged, feed the children who aren’t being fed, counsel the abused and mentor the lost. This is normally a labor of love until you have your own lost, hungry and moderately nurtured child who requires your attention more than your paycheck. There are times where it feels like the roles switch, at school you’re a mom and at home you’re a teacher. At some point we have to realize that everything that we do is in the best interest of our children, and it’s painful to realize that you have to reserve your time, your energy and your sanity for the ones for whom you are truly responsible at the expense of those you service. The teacher-mom is an essential role in education because she provides the nurturing that is necessary for our children to be receptive to learning. However, we have to ask ourselves which role comes first, and what we are willing to sacrifice for either side.
Dominicca Washington is a mother and high school educator at a South Chicago school. Dominicca was born and raised on Chicago's South Side and is a graduate of the Chicago Public School (CPS) system.
She attended Clark Atlanta University where she earned a bachelor's of arts in English and served as vice president of the English club. Dominicca then went on to teach fourth and first grade in the ...