Archive for Monday, January 5, 2009

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Teachers as parents: What lessons learned in the classroom translate in the home?

Steve Nilhas, principal of Lawrence High School, has a daughter, Morgan, who is a senior at the school this year.

Steve Nilhas, principal of Lawrence High School, has a daughter, Morgan, who is a senior at the school this year.

January 5, 2009

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Jon and Mindy Stutler are both educators and spend their days surrounded by kids. When they come home, they spend more quality time with their two boys, Colby, 6 months, and Cameron, 3.

Jon and Mindy Stutler are both educators and spend their days surrounded by kids. When they come home, they spend more quality time with their two boys, Colby, 6 months, and Cameron, 3.

Jon Stutler is head of Century School, 816 Ky., a private school for children ages 3 through 12. He is surrounded by children all day long, including his older child, Cameron, 3. He says of teaching and parenting: “The parallels between the classroom and home are very consistent.”

Jon Stutler is head of Century School, 816 Ky., a private school for children ages 3 through 12. He is surrounded by children all day long, including his older child, Cameron, 3. He says of teaching and parenting: “The parallels between the classroom and home are very consistent.”

Jon Stutler has two biological children. But Mondays through Fridays he inherits dozens more.

Stutler is among the numerous Lawrence teachers who are also parents, many of whom work at the same school their children attend.

“As a teacher you get to observe all the different kids you meet and look at all the family values they’ve learned. You get to pick and choose from those that you’d love to see for your child,” says Stutler, principal teacher at Century School, 816 Ky.

“The parallels between the classroom and home are very consistent.”

Having taught at Century for 11 years, and headed it since 2001, Stutler was able to experience the joys and pains of educational parenting prior to having a family of his own.

He has a 3-year-old son, Cameron, and a 6-month old, Colby. Cameron attends Century, which caters to students ages 3 through 12.

“It used to weird me out knowing that — depending on the family — these teachers and myself may spend more time with a student per month than their parents spend,” he explains.

“But I have a special luxury that a lot of parents don’t that allows me at any moment throughout the day to go spend a minute with or just observe what Cameron is doing. I get to see the nuts and bolts of his day.”

Teaching household

The Venn diagram of overlapping parenting/teaching gets especially complicated within the Rabiola family.

Sam Rabiola is an English instructor at Free State High School. His wife, Lori-Kay, teaches fourth grade at Schwegler School.

They have a daughter in eighth grade at South Junior High School. And their older daughter just graduated from Lawrence High School and is currently a freshman at Emporia State.

“It’s not that I think teachers who don’t have children can’t be good teachers,” says Lori-Kay Rabiola. “But I know that our children are not perfect, and that has made me a better teacher. Especially, when dealing with parents at conferences, I can honestly say, ‘I understand.’ For me it has made a world of difference having my own children.”

Rabiola says the vast majority of teachers at her school are also parents. Inevitably, lessons learned in the classroom translate into the household — and vice versa.

“A lot of it is keeping calm. When both my husband and I are dealing with large groups of kids, that helps a lot. We can see when they’re winding up and when it’s time to step away,” she says.

Rabiola worked at Schwegler while both her daughters attended there.

“I think more pressure was always on the girls. I don’t think teachers expected more of them because their teachers were parents. But they put pressure on themselves,” she says.

Multiple perspectives

Speaking of pressure ...

When Morgan Nilhas started as a freshman at Lawrence High School, her dad wasn’t just teaching English at the same school — he also happened to be the principal.

The elder Nilhas is in his sixth year as principal of LHS. He says the large size of the school (1,342 students) makes the situation of having his youngest daughter in attendance easier to handle.

“At a smaller school, having your dad as a principal would be a different experience,” he says. “There are days where we don’t even see each other. But oftentimes we do.

“It would also be more of a challenge if you had a child who had behavior issues or attendance issues. Morgan gets good grades and is never in any kind of trouble. So that definitely helps.”

Although Nilhas hasn’t taught regular class in a couple of years due to his administrative schedule, he believes the skills required in the classroom “translate to life general.”

“Being a parent and an educator does give you a little different perspective. I think that I can definitely relate to the challenges families have,” he says.

Stutler concurs.

“It’s easier to see both ends of the table when you’re sitting there working with a student who is getting frustrated or emotional. The initial adult reaction is to think, ‘This isn’t a reason to get frustrated.’ Immediately, you’re grabbed by that parent side of you that thinks, ‘This is kind of sad.’ It certainly causes pause.”

Stutler believes consistency is the greatest challenge when handling his older child, while patience is the key with his youngest.

Is it easier to deal with other people’s children now that he’s experienced being a parent?

“No question,” he affirms. “I’m so grateful that I’ve had years of teaching to prepare me for parenting.”

Comments

BuffyloGal 6 years, 4 months ago

I think the three months of summer holidays and the two weeks just spent at home add to the equation as well. If the child is helping with dinner preparation, then there is more time. If that time is spent alone on homework or other activities, then the classroom does have more time in the end, at least during the school year. All I know is that once you have your own kids, you don't worry as much about your students. You have a new area to focus on for a while.

Confrontation 6 years, 4 months ago

Video games tend to be the only thing teaching many children when they get home.

BuffyloGal 6 years, 4 months ago

Great! They're learning about cooperation and strategy-building. They're probably also talking to each other about it at school and helping each other out with difficult levels. If it's a Wii, they're getting a light workout as well as learning the basics of tennis, baseball or golf.

sarahsmilehawk 6 years, 4 months ago

When Morgan Nilhas was a freshman, she went to a JUNIOR high school like every other 9th grader in the district. LHS only has grades 10-12. But I'm just being snarky...

mom_of_three 6 years, 4 months ago

the author probably meant Sophomore instead of freshman

CenturyParent 6 years, 4 months ago

tanzer - Century School is a year round school that operates from 7:30 - 5:30 M-F if you don't count sleeping time - his statement is pretty true plus Century is only closed two weeks in winter, one in Spring and one in summer, depending on the family (students work on Individual plans they are not on a set schedule so not all students are there full days) the teachers do spend more time in a given week with their kids. That is why I send my child there because I know I'm entrusting them with the most important job there is. I understand your frustration with the statement but thought I would clarify Century School's unique schedule that makes his statement true.

Confrontation 6 years, 4 months ago

Seriously, BuffyloGal? I really hope you don't have kids.

geniusmannumber1 6 years, 4 months ago

Confrontation, do you not realize that nobody takes you seriously?

DennisAnderson 6 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence freshmen (ninth-graders) attend junior high. High school starts at sophomore year.

spankyandcranky 6 years, 4 months ago

My dad was a PE teacher, but in a different school district than I attended. I liked being able to go to him with questions that I was too shy to ask my own PE teacher about in front of all the other students. Usually I enjoyed the one-on-one attention that I got when I needed some extra help, and I think it helped me to excell in an area that is normally difficult for a lot of girls. Sometimes, though, he wanted to give WAY more info than what I asked for. But he made sure not to be too pushy when it came to my involvement in after-school sports from elementary on. I chose to participate in all of them until I figured out which ones I wanted to focus on. I always knew he was there to support me. His interest and encouragement gave me confidence I probably would not have had otherwise. He also coached after-school sports. A lot of students didn't have parents there to cheer them on during team competitions, and he saw first hand how that affected students and knew it was important for him to be available and supportive. I do think that being a teacher made him a better dad and vice versa, but I also think it helped me become a better person as well. I am the oldest of 4 kids, and feel my siblings would share my opinion on this topic.

Confrontation 6 years, 4 months ago

Why do you read my posts, then, genius? You're obviously obsessed with me enough to read my writings.

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