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I taught for several years at a residential school for children with emotional disabilities before staying home after the birth of my second daughter. I returned to teaching, finished my Educational Leadership program in May of 2012, and now work as our district's Writing and Social Studies Coordinator. I have always loved writing and find constant inspiration from my family. Maybe someday, I will get to see my name on the cover of a book!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Day #13: Tough to be a mom and a teacher sometimes...

Still going strong in the Slice of Life Challenge that is hosted by the incredible writing community at twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Thanks so much for hosting this wonderful event!

I am finding it harder and harder to be the go-to person when my youngest daughter needs academic help.

I love being an educator and I love being a mom, but man, it's hard to be both of those together, sometimes. Last night, Cecily, shared her literary essay with me. Quite honestly, I read it and I was worried. Cecily has always had a clear strong voice in her writing, but she is a rambler and tends to lose her way. She wrote about One Handed Catch, a fabulous book, and she made many good points about the main character and his friend, but she had not one unifying or coordinating point to be found. I'm never sure what the lessons are exactly, and I never want to confuse her by teaching something differently, so I helped her a bit with a conclusion (yes, that was tricky) and emailed her teacher as soon as she went to bed. She has written fabulous pieces this week, as a result of some great instruction, I am sure.
Tonight, Cec came home with evidence of a lengthy conference with her teacher; her teacher's writing was all over the draft, giving her many directions on what to do and where to do it. As Cecily tried to interpret and integrate all of the comments,  she kept saying "This is what my teacher said to do," wanting so much to do the right thing, to write the "right" way, to be the good student. But, neither of us could figure it all out.

After some tears and some Ben and Jerry's Phish Food (I needed some too at that point--probably more than she did!), we went back at that literary essay. Together, we studied the rubric and the mentor texts that were in her writing folder, and we talked about structures that could work. This definitely took longer than any teacher would have in a conference in between a mini-lesson, other students, and an end-of-workshop share, but she was able to then write a much more cohesive essay--I'm hoping that her teacher doesn't feel like all of her suggestions were completely disregarded!

Funny that her essay was about the power of perseverance and hard work; I pointed out to her that she must have internalized the message of that book, given the effort that she'd shown on this essay! I hope that her teacher is supportive of her efforts and maybe, maybe might have a moment of reflection that sometimes less gets you more and that students' work needs to remain students' work if they really are going to internalize and transfer the important skills that they need to learn. I'm crafting an email to her teacher that lets her know how hard she worked on this and that she probably needs to move on from this piece. I think that another dose of massive corrections would be more that either of us could handle!

Happy Day 13!


  1. Oh, Melanie! I so get this! When I couldn't figure out the purpose of the "task" I knew that my son had no idea. Compliance with "fixing" the red marks was ok, but had absolutely nothing to do with learning anything that would be helpful in future pieces of writing.

    Glad that Cec had your support with perseverance and hard work!

  2. A fine line to walk, for sure. It's hard when you don't know what the teaching is behind the writing. I so agree with your bullet points! I hope this paper can now go to bed.

  3. Working with Cec is always a fantastic time-- thanks for always having the patience to put up with our shenanigans. You rock.

  4. I know that you read my post, Melanie, & this touches some of my points too. As a teacher, I really believe that there is a "little" to be offered to the student and her writing, and then it's time to let that writing be. If there are so many, many directions, then it becomes the teacher's writing, not the student's. This struck me: "students' work needs to remain students' work if they really are going to internalize and transfer the important skills that they need to learn." A long while ago, but I remember well the struggles of my own children, and me trying to help. Best wishes!

  5. Oh, this brought back memories of my daughter Olivia, and papers all written over with indecipherable and often conflicting "corrections". But, Cecily allowed you to help her - bless her, and you, and that Phish ice cream. Often, the teachers who leave the most comments have spent the least amount of time actually meeting and conferring with their students. The dreadful power of the red pen!

  6. We're just beginning the journey of the parent side of education with a kindergartner and a first grader. And I can only imagine that we too will have many similar moments. I must say I'm so impressed with your honesty and the way you really coached your daughter through the PROCESS and allowed the work to remain hers. Another things that stood out to me is your open communication with her teacher. Thanks so much for your post!
    Amanda - ELA 101

  7. Ice cream makes everything better! Your point about letting "student work remain student work if they're going to internalize and transfer the skills they need" is an important one. There does come a point when simply pointing out errors is counterproductive. Cecily is incredibly lucky to have you to guide her. Curious to know how her teacher responds.

  8. I agree. It can be tough to be a mom and a teacher sometimes!

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  10. I always thought it was hard to be a mom and teacher, too! Somehow when it's your daughter, all your strategies can go out the window! It's hard to balance how you would teach it with how the teacher would teach it, and your child is caught in the middle. You expressed the dilemma beautifully, with humor (the ice cream), and wisdom.