Update: I intended, but didn’t, include guardians in the list of those who are stakeholders in a child’s education. I apologize to the many wonderful people who care for children and hold titles other than parent, such as “Grandparent,” “Aunt,” “Uncle,” “Sister,” “Brother,” or “Foster Parent.” Please know that I recognize the incredible contribution you make to children’s lives and regret the oversight. I was so focused on my experiences with my son that I did not weave guardian into the post.
Every parent is also a teacher and has at least one student: a child. During the formidable first years, the parent is the primary educator. The child looks to the parent first for guidance, learning how to walk, talk, eat, etc. This little person spends a great deal of time watching, experimenting, and mimicking until one day, the actions make sense. Then, while Mom is cooking in the kitchen, she hears uncertain footsteps clopping on the floor and turns around to see the baby standing there, watching her. Dad, beaming with pride, is standing behind the baby. (What a moment that was!)
Most parents start the process of relinquishing at least part of their educational responsibility when they enroll the child in school. The first time the little one walks into a classroom can be a painful and frightening moment for both, for a part of the relationship that is now changing drastically. The parent becomes a partner with a stranger who, although a professional educator, is still completely unknown. The child needs to acclimate to a new authority figure, a new routine, and a new space. Some do not go gently into that situation; others take to it like a duck upon water. I cried for some time after dropping my son off for his first day in Kindergarten, even though he had been in preschool for two years. That first day made it official, in my mind: I had gone from primary teacher to secondary for at least 9 months of the year. My son would now spend more waking hours with a caregiver other than me. Like many parents, I also had to accept the fact that I would not know everything that was happening during that time.
It doesn’t have to be that way, however.