Happy Mother’s Day

Sally Rushmore is the Managing Editor of the New Teacher Advocate. She is often heard coaching new teachers on the phone and other staff members come to her with “teacher questions.”

Nothing makes a mother happier than having her children together . . . unless it is having one of her children follow in her footsteps! That happened for my mother and it has happened for me. When I was a senior in high school, my mother went back to college to become a teacher. As we both went through education classes, we often compared notes and even studied together. And we helped each other decorate classrooms, change bulletin boards, and grade papers. We enjoyed garage sales together in the summers to collect books and items for centers.

MomMy mother taught third grade and fourth grade, but when she taught second grade, she knew that was where she belonged—and stayed there 17 years. She worked tirelessly to meet the needs of each individual student, often making materials that would help one student in her class who was struggling with a concept. She was lucky to have that job in the school that was just across and down the street from where she lived. Our community was a small town and security was an unknown word. She enjoyed taking her class to her yard to identify trees or flowers or have ice cream on a hot day. Several other teachers in the building also lived on the street, so it truly was a neighborhood school. I had attended that school and all of my children have attended that school. And we still run into people who had her as a teacher or whose child had her as a teacher and they are so happy to see her!

I took a more circuitous route, starting in elementary education and then changing to science and math in secondary education. Along the way I spent time in graduate school, worked for a pharmaceutical company, and when my children were young, tutored 12-15 students in science or math in my home each week. My classroom time spanned all grades and subjects as a substitute teacher as well as having my own various science and math classes in middle school. As my children finished high school, I was lucky to land a job teaching computer applications at the local community college—across the street from the high school and within walking distance of our home. My son and daughter often sneaked into the back of my computer lab after school and worked on their homework and then we walked home together. After several years as a freelance writer and editor specializing in science subjects and education, I came to Kappa Delta Pi where my duties are focused on supporting new teachers.

My daughter started out with no thoughts of being an education major—she was going to be a veterinarian. However, by sophomore year she informed us she was in agriculture education. Having raised all kinds of animals and having a love of children, it seemed to be a good fit until she did a practicum and realized who her students would be. A change of major that late in her schooling meant another couple of semesters, but she loved her elementary education classes and the students in her field experiences. However, her student teaching was a disastrous semester and made her doubt her ability to teach.

Sally, her mother Marilyn, her granddaughter Addi,  and her daughter Rebecca holding her grandnieceA year ago (after two years as a manager in retail and two years working in a vet’s office), she called me and talked at length about attempting to get her license and look for a job. When schools were starting in August, she still had not landed a job. In fact, she had not even gotten an interview! Then she started getting interviews and suddenly, three weeks after school started, she had a decision to make between two very different experiences—a kindergarten classroom where the teacher had to leave early on maternity leave and would be out the rest of the year on a school district we knew was supportive or a fourth grade class she would be starting from scratch in a project-based school we knew very little about. You can read her recent blog to see how it turned out! We’ve had many education conversations this year. And at 92 my mother is back at garage sales to buy books and materials for her granddaughter. Now my granddaughter plays teacher-at-school and claims she is “going to be a teacher just like Nana and Mamaw and Mommy!”

Teachers seem to run in families and I’ve never known if that is because those families value education and helping others or if the traits and disposition for teaching are inherited. KDP even has a “family membership” option for those families!

Whether you are one of many teachers in a family or one of the first teachers in your family, it is a wonderfully rewarding profession despite the long hours and hard work to assure that each of your students is learning at his or her level. My mother and I decorate our Christmas trees with many ornaments that were given to us by students and remind each other of the stories or the struggles of those students. No, we don’t forget our students—they are in our hearts. Being a teacher is a lot like being a mother: You toil with and for your students and nobody is prouder of them than you are when they succeed!

Happy Mother’s Day and I hope you had a good Teacher Appreciation Week! Is it a coincidence that they are back-to-back? I think not. Share your story in the comments!

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