Why I’m an Educator: My Mom

I am one of three kids, all of us educators. Everyone assumes our parents must have been educators too (they’re not!) because, really, how do you end up with three educators from a family of non-educators?!?! As many times as I’ve had to respond to those who make that assumption over the years, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to reflect on it…how did we all end up following the same path?  I’ve realized the answer is: Mom.

I would guess many of you can identify someone (or more than one) very influential in your life who ultimately led you to where you are today as a professional. My mother was the one who showed me, without me even realizing it, what it took to be a successful educator. She showed me what it meant to care deeply, unconditionally, and yet uniquely. I learned the importance of making commitments, following through on them, always giving my best effort, and finding balance in my life. Finally, while this was something I didn’t realize I’d learned until I’d reached adulthood, she showed me what it meant to give all of yourself to help others. My mother has been an educator since the day I was born (and probably before that!) and I have been one of the fortunate recipients of her teachings.

As the mother of three very different, independent, and strong-willed children, my mom had her work cut out for her! However, no matter the challenges we threw at her (and continue to throw at her) she has never once wavered in her unconditional and unending love for each of us and, now, our families. I know, mothers are supposed to love their children unconditionally forever and ever, so what’s the big deal? Like I said, each of us kids are very different from each other. Our mother, however, found a way to make sure that each of us received the love we needed, in the way(s) that we needed it, always. Throughout my career as an educator I’ve taken this lesson of unconditional, yet unique love and applied it to how I build relationships with  my students. Each student comes to us with a different educational experience, different life experience, and different approach to school. Students aren’t mass produced, they aren’t made with a mold or cookie cutter, they are all unique and need to be cared for as individuals.

Despite sacrificing balance in her own life while we were growing up, my mother always made sure that any commitment we made, we kept. We were fortunate, we had lots of opportunities that many kids don’t. Additionally, we were never allowed to waste those that we chose to pursue. If we wanted to play a sport, we never missed a practice or a game. If it was the piano or saxophone, I had to pound those keys and honk that horn for my required 20 minutes each and every day (until the lessons/school year was finished) no matter how desperately I wanted to give up. As an educator, I’ve needed to draw on my sense of commitment, hard work, and balance not only for myself but also as skills to pass on to my students. It’s easy to get overextended as an educator and for students it’s very easy to lose focus and let effort wane. I’m thankful that I learned the importance of both commitment and balance from my mother, finding that happy medium has been crucial to my success as an educator.

While growing up I never saw it; how much my mom sacrificed to make sure that our entire family had everything we ever needed. As I reached the point in my life where I could look back and appreciate it, I could see just how much my mother gave to make sure we were successful in life. This willingness to give, without promise of anything in return, has been something I’ve learned to appreciate and value the further I’ve gone in education. As educators it is rare that we ever receive the credit or thanks that we deserve. Sure, we may get nice gifts on holidays or during Teacher Appreciation Week, but we are often undervalued and overlooked as professionals. This sacrifice, this sense of giving of ourselves unconditionally, is something that I never could’ve learned if not for my mother. In fact, without this lesson I’m 100% convinced that I never would’ve become an educator. ALL educators have this trait, we’ve all learned to internalize it somehow…for me, it came from my mother.

I’m incredibly fortunate. My mother, this amazing superhero of a person, continues to teach these lessons to this day; whether to me and my sisters, her four (almost five) grandkids, or her friends and colleagues. For all of you mothers out there…thank you!!!  For all of you educators who teach these lessons to your students…thank you!!! To my mother…THANK YOU!!

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