Mommy Maestra

Back in 1999 life was great.

I was back in my hometown after spending six years in the Bay Area. I made new friends and was dating a sailor who was studying at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey.

I remember the first farmer's market we ever went to, R bought me a caramel apple. We had to have another one for old time's sake.

I was in my third year of teaching and so excited to be with six year olds again. Yes, I was teaching first grade again.

After thirteen years, I still remember the question that I was asked by parents the most that year: “So… do you have any kids of your own?”

I have to admit that I was mistakenly offended whenever someone asked this question because I got the impression that parents couldn’t believe that I could adequately teach their children if I wasn’t a parent already. Maybe some parents deep down believed (and still believe) that notion but I think that many were questioning my fabulosity youth.

While I don’t think you need to be a parent to be a good teacher and vice versa, I know that both roles complement each other… and I exploit them ruthlessly.

What I Learned Being a TEACHER:

1. The moment you engage in an argument with a child, you lose. Mommy won’t argue with you. Period.

2. Diffuse the situation with silence. Quiet is MUCH scarier than yelling.

3. Routines work. Bedtime and alarms are the same and vary only by an hour on weekends and on vacation.

4. Lists work. To-Do Lists put the responsibility on the kids.

5. Use bribes sparingly. “What? We’re gonna go to McDonalds? We haven’t been there in a long time! Let’s hurry up and clean our rooms!”

6. Find allies quickly. Team up with teacher/parent and agree on an objective whether it’s reading independently or remembering to study. Constantly reenforce objective until kid knows it like the back of his hand. Like when your older daughter refuses to put her sweater on during a Disney On Ice show. Simply turn to the woman next to you and whisper, “Would you mind telling my daughter to put her sweater on?” and a knowing gleam appears in her eye. Problem solved.

7. Let learning be its own reward. I don’t do raffle tickets or anything too complicated or I’ll get too lazy. I do simple but special things like table/group points for Lunch Bunch (bringing lunch back to the classroom and eating with moi). I have been known to do something special such as letting the kid choose the once-a-week (TRYING to keep it at once a week) foray to the drive-thru of choice for a great report card or note.

Last trimester my son got STRAIGHT A’s in third grade for the FIRST TIME EVER. We decided to go big and get him a huge Nerf foam dart machine gun. He was so happy and excited that as he was lugging it out to the car, he said, “This feels really good!”

I said, “What? Getting a huge present?”

“No,” he said. “Getting good grades does!”

YESSSSS! We’ll see if he gets those grades again and remembers what he said…

What I Learned Being a PARENT:

1. Every student is someone’s child. I don’t get too grossed out if a kid has a runny nose. I just get the kid a tissue. No biggie.

2. Every kid walking or biking or skateboarding on the street is going to be treated like it’s MY KID out there so honk if you must but I’m still not going to speed up. Jerk.

3. Every kid has a backstory. It may be something as simple as getting reprimanded for something minor or worrying about whether or not he packed his homework. It may be something life-altering like dad getting in a car accident. Whatever “it” is, it’s important to the kid so it’s important to you.

4. Kids can’t hear ANYTHING. “What? Clean my room? Huh? What did you say?”

5. Kids hear EVERYTHING. My daughter was upstairs in her room playing but she heard my husband and I talk about where we might go for lunch. Apparently the phrase “BEAN BURRITO” registers in her superhearing.

6. Kids don’t remember anything. My son forgot his homework for an entire two weeks in a row until…

7. Kids remember EVERYTHING. My son quotes his new fourth grade teacher verbatim and has a newfound responsibility that kinda freaks me out a little. Also, they never forget when I forget to pay them for cleaning up the dog doo in the backyard or the promise of going to the movies every season.


1. They check their egos at the door and let the kids be right at their own goofy expense.

2. They are compassionate, caring individuals who contribute to our society in the highest roles possible as parents and/or teachers.


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