There are telltale signs that come with taking on the jobs of teacher and mother simultaneously. Maybe you’ve seen some of them – the crazy eyes, the slew of half-empty coffee mugs littering the house, the cockeyed couch cushions, the trail of toys from bedroom to living room… Over the months, I’ve discovered a few more ways that you just know.
You know you’re a kindergarten teacher and mother to toddlers when…
Ground beef and gluesticks are the first two items on your shopping list. Why ground beef? Because your family’s been alternating between tacos and spaghetti for dinner the past few weeks. And the gluesticks? Because the colored Christmas trees and numbered gingerbread houses you’re using for math centers this week demand to be glued to their cardstock partners.
Your kitchen table consistently looks like it’s been hit by a paper/scissors/markers grenade and painfully sits without hope of recovery. Let’s be honest – you can’t really clean anything up. That glorious table is the only spot in the house that will hold all of the projects you’ve decided to start working on concurrently. At least the mayhem covers up your 22-month-old’s crayon art from last week. The only plausible solution to the fracas must be to buy a second kitchen table.
Your pet peeve is not being able to fill that last empty section of laminating sheet. The dilemma: laminate now, waste the space, but finish preparing for the next day? Or laminate later, risk ruining a few visual aids at school, but wait to find the piece of paper that will fit perfectly in that little area? OK, maybe this one can be filed under “You know you’re an OCD kindergarten teacher when…”
Your family Christmas tree is finally assembled several weeks late, and your new mantra to the smallest members of the household is, “DON’T TOUCH – JUST LOOK.” You’re also still deciding if the faint smell of burning electrical wires is something to be concerned about, or if you should just chalk it up to buying cheap-o Christmas lights.
Your heart swells with pride at the glimpses of learning and growth you catch in the middle of the hustle. It happens when your students get so excited about the circle they just drew that they incessantly shout your name from ALL the way across the room. And when you don’t come soon enough, they rocket out of their seats to shove their precious, dirty faces right in front of yours in their valiant attempts for a little recognition. It happens before bed when your three-year-old asks to read the Christmas story and tells you all about the baby Jesus. And it happens again when your kindergartners sit so still and hang on every word of that same, beautiful Christmas story.
You realize that life is hard as a mother-teacher. But you know that in the middle of the exhaustion and frustration, you wouldn’t give up the great privilege to care for these treasured ones. You’re still learning that it’s OK if things aren’t perfect – that you can concede the varied, aesthetically-pleasing meals and perfectly-placed Christmas ornaments if it means that God allows you to play a small part in the lives of these beloved children.