"Bringing Hope through Torah" ATIME Shas-a-Thon 5776

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Dear Sito,

It’s time for me to make a decision on something that’s been on my mind for a few years now.I’ve been a fourth grade teacher in a highly acclaimed school for the past nine years. I’ve come to really love my job over the years, and the pay is decent. I’ve worked in other schools before, and I was never as happy as I am now.

The issue is, a few years ago we switched my youngest daughter to the school I work in because we felt it was a better fit for her. We knew the timewould soon come when I would be the teacher of her grade, and I guess I was hoping they would add a parallel class, but that didn’t happen.

Next year my daughter will be in fourth grade. It would be very challenging to be her teacher, but if that would be the best thing for her, I wouldn’t even have a question. However, my husband and I feel that my daughter’s school experience would be compromised socially and academically if I was her teacher. I’m sure I can find another job (I’ve beenteaching for over twenty-five years in the community), but who wants to leave a job they like?

Your perspective and advice on the matter would really
be appreciated.

Signed,

Teacher Dilemma

Dear Teacher Dilemma,

Ah… you have a dilemma familiar to many mothers: making a choice that is right for my child but detrimental to me. The first oath of a physician is to do no harm. Mothers go beyond the Hippocratic Oath by vowing, “I will do whatever it takes to keep my child safe.” And yet at times, in order to protect the best interests of our child, we will have to make personal sacrifices.

I think although it is a hard conclusion to come to, both you and your husband see that you will compromise your daughter’s school experience by becoming her teacher. Without knowing your personal reasons, I tend to agree with your assessment. Playing a dual role for her will be confusing, as the expectations a child has from a mother and a teacher are different. And in trying to be fair in your role as a teacher, you may beseen as not protective enough in your role as a mother.

As a teacher you are responsible for the education and welfare of every student in your classroom. As a mother your ultimate pre-occupation is the safety – physical and emotional - of your child. During the school year there will be times when these will be at odds with one another. As a teacher you must give each child an opportunity to answer the questions you pose. If you call on your daughter too often, the other students may feel slighted; if intrying to avoid this you don’t call on her enough, you daughter will feel slighted (not only by her teacher but by her mother as well). Any praise you give your daughter in the classroom may be seen by her classmates (and their parents) as favoritism. If your class is preparing a play or putting together a newsletter and your daughter is given the lead, even if she is qualified, there may be questions of your objectivity. If you don’t give it to her in order to avoid cries of favoritism, she will be upset that she hasn’t been given an opportunity that she deserves.

The classroom is not the only one place your dual role will affect your daughter. After school your daughter will have to share her home life with her teacher. Usually, children can come home toa place of comfort to complain about their teacher and all the unfair things that happened to them during the day. (Imagine if you were married to your boss.) Your daughter will no longer have this outlet, unless she complains to her Dad about you, which will feel disloyal.

Having come to the conclusion that it is best for your daughter that you not be her teacher, how do you come to terms with leaving a job that you love? Well first let’s examine if you have to leave. Isit possible that for the year your daughter is in fourth grade that you teach a different grade – maybe third or fifth? This may require planning new curriculum but it may be an exciting change for you as well. Perhaps you can take on an administrative role for the next year and return to your fourth grade class when your daughter has moved on to fifth grade. Seek the guidance of the school administration – I imagine they don’t want to lose you – a valued employee of nine years – and perhaps together you can find a solution that works for you professionally and protects your daughter’s social and academic experience.

Whatever the result for you professionally, take pride in the fact that the decisions you have made. You switched your daughter to the schoolwhere you work because it was better for her, and you chose not to become her teacher. These choices are based on your love for your daughter and your desire to protect her. No matter where you end up professionally, you have succeeded beyond measure as aMom.

All the best,
Sito