I 100% side with the elementary teachers in Ontario who are hitting the picket lines to put pressure on the government in contract talks. But not necessarily for the reasons you think. I side with the teachers because I AM the daughter of a (now) long-retired teacher of children who happened to have had special needs.
Honestly? I do not believe that I got the best of my mother, as a parent, over her 20 years of teaching kids, who happen to have had special needs. Do you you know who did get the best of MY mother? Her students and their parents. Not me. That’s how I felt growing up.
I got to see a hectic mother rushing four kids out the door and driving to work, super early. I got to see my mother coming home, exhausted, arms full of groceries, having to deal with homework, clean up, bedtimes. Day after day after day. Week after week. Until I finally moved out.
Again, my mother’s students and their parents got the best of my mother. Not me. But, to this day, when I introduce myself in person with my last name, I get one of two responses. One is, “Are you the writer, Rebecca Eckler?” followed by a compliment. (Except once, when someone told me to “go fuck yourself” because I had written a super important piece about how Peter Mansbridge had started to sport a beard. I’m still baffled by that. But I digress.)
The other response, is, “Are you related to a Mrs. Eckler? Was your mother a teacher?” Sometimes, these people I met actually teared up when they found out that I was “Mrs. Eckler’s daughter.” That’s how thankful they are still to my mother, who had taught their kids; kids who were told they would never do this, never do that, leading my mother to prove to these kids and their parents that, yes your kid can do this and your kid can do that.
At least a dozen times, mothers have so genuinely said, “Your mother taught my daughter to read and write. I will never forget how amazing she was. She was strict! But I don’t know where we would be now if we weren’t lucky enough to have her as a teacher.”
Once, after someone complimented my mother’s teaching, I almost cried myself, because this wonderful and generous and giving woman she was describing, I did not see at home. There was my mother, the hardworking, patient, teacher, admired by so many, for going above what anyone would expect of a teacher…and then there was the mother I saw and got when she got home.
It truly took me into my 20s, when people started to recognize my last name as a writer, to realize how much an impact my mother had on these children, their parents and, and their quality of life.
In these moments, I get the chills, when people compliment my mother, because, aside from the strict part, this was not a side that I ever saw. For 7 or 8 hours, other parent’s children had my mom’s full attention, while basically the “Attention Tank” was dangerously low, or that’s how I felt when she came home from teaching. Yes, she fed us. Yes, she made sure we brushed our teeth. Yes, she made sure we did our homework.
But, yes, it kind of sucked to have a teacher as a mother, and, I do think, because she was a teacher, working with other children all day, we didn’t really have a super close relationship – there was never time! There was never enough energy! (Though I won’t speak for my three brothers.)
I can’t imagine that my mother didn’t suffer from guilt for working and then being too tired to goof around with us. The difference is, I do goof around with my children all the fucking time. Because, unlike a teacher, I do not have to scream and teach class sizes that are bigger than the most popular spin classes in New York, deal with sometimes challenging children, and, let’s be real, challenging parents, and, basically, keep everyone alive, while also teaching them what the difference is between a damn triangle and octagon. I would not last 30 minutes as a teacher, and I bet most of you wouldn’t either. (My retort when people say to me that patience is a virtue is, “So is hurry the fuck up!” See how long I’d last?)
Trust me, I understand why my mother had to be strict with us. She had four kids, all within a handful of years, to keep in line. So, after a long day at work teaching and helping kids to be productive and be proud of themselves, she would often come home in a mood.
As an only child herself, she wanted a lot of kids (although it’s not a secret that my youngest brother may have been an accident!) But the kids who got the most attention were other people’s kids. And, now that I’m an adult, we are closer, and, in fact, I truly admire my mother. Because she really did give most of her time and energy into other people’s children, who needed it, and I think that’s admirable, to say the least.
So, the argument that teachers get two months off for summer, or March Break off along with the holidays, just doesn’t fly. I don’t think it takes a genius to see that clearly we need more supervision, let alone helping to keep teachers mental wellness! It’s fucking clear, to me, that you don’t go into teaching these days, unless you’re really passionate about it, as my mother was. Because two months off? Nope. Not enough, considering what they do during the rest of the year.
It’s also pretty fucking clear, in my opinion, that the teachers need to do better PR. Of course, us mothers, even if we 100 percent have your back, are scrambling to find child care. We already have a PD day on Friday, so to add two more days, on the same week? This is what’s REALLY pissing people off. (Call me if you need a PR person. I have some ideas!)
I love my mother, very much, and I know she loves me. But I always wanted to spend more time with my mom – I knew there was another side to her! – but how? She was always exhausted and all she wanted to do was take a long bath. Why? Because she was a teacher! And, that, coupled with being a mother? I so get it. Truthfully, it didn’t really seem to me that my mother was “parenting” us as much as “keeping us in line.” Though, that could also do with her generation of parenting, compared to all of us, or at least me, who talk to my kids like “friends” sometimes.
I think we can be honest and say that most parents are very annoyed about this strike because they have to scramble for child care, because this strike really (read the fucking news) doesn’t really have to do with money (a 1 percent increase?)
Yes, I 100% sympathize with all of the parents desperate to find child care, missing work when they need the money, and, of course, I feel most for the children.
Take it from the daughter of a teacher.
But, remember, most teachers are giving up their lives for YOUR kids, and not always their own. Think about that.