Do You Need to Be a Parent to Be a Good Teacher?

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I’m not a parent, and I don’t want to be. 

That can be a controversial statement for any young woman, but it seems that it’s even more so for a teacher. 

Many teachers that I know have expressed this. They believe that to be a good teacher, you need to really love kids. If you really love kids, then, of course, you want to have some of your own! It’s just a natural, logical place to be in your life. If you don’t want kids, you mustn’t like them and so mustn’t be a very good teacher. 

Liking kids.

The first part of this is the idea of liking kids. 

I do admit, you need to like children and young people to be a teacher. A lot of teachers don’t seem to like their students very much and it shows. Some of them hide it very well, but the students can tell. When it is your job to build relationships and trust with these people, and you don’t really want a relationship with them, it will affect that relationship as well as the teacher’s well-being.

See more: What is Emotional Burn-Out and How Does it Impact Teachers?

I struggle with young kids. I struggle with how needy they can be; give me an apathetic teenager any day! But this is why I chose to teach high school. While I struggle with young children, I genuinely care about people and want to help my students be the best people they can be. I take great joy in seeing them build independence, find their interests and passions, and grow into good people who will do great things. My students consistently inspire me. 

This is different to thinking of them like children. Even more so, my children.

Treating your students like your children.

The main issue that I take with the idea that good teachers need to be parents is that it naturally draws a comparison between your students and your children. I do not think of my students as like my children or family in any shape or form. 

The skills and emotional needs that draw someone towards being a parent shouldn’t be the skills and needs that draw them into teaching. If you want to be a parent, teaching is not an appropriate outlet for that. The relationship that you need to form is very different, so I don’t see why they get compared so much. 

A frazzled looking young male teacher is helping two young students with their work.

I don’t baby my students. I don’t even really have an invested interest in their success or achievements. I know many teachers who get personally upset or distressed when a student isn’t doing what they want them to do, whether that’s behaviour or academic achievement. Some teachers get offended even that a student isn’t taking their subject seriously. 

I don’t know that this is in any way linked to teachers who draw more similarities between their students and their parents, but I can see some parallels. I don’t have a personal interest in whether they succeed or fail and while I’m their to support them, I’m not there to do the work for them. I want them to be independent, and they know that they need to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning. I don’t have any skin in the game. I’m not proud of them as such, because I know that their successes are not up to me. They are not mine to be proud of. But they inspire me. 

Power dynamics

My views on this are quite strong as you can probably tell, and I think that a big part of that is that I’ve noticed the different ways that I’ve been treated by people who have equated me to their children. 

I’m a young teacher, and a young leader. I work at the same level as a lot of people who have children my age. I’ve been called “hun” or “sweetie” more times than I can count by people who really should be respecting me more than that. 

Just to clarify, I have no problem being called these things in a personal setting. When it’s in a leadership meeting though, it can be demeaning. It paints me as the child in the room who is there to be supported, both intellectually and emotionally. I know that a lot of teachers will also make these kind of verbal (and mental) slip-ups with their students.

I know how it makes me feel, and I know that I don’t want my students to feel that way in their relationship with me. I don’t want them to feel like it’s possible to “let me down” because it’s my entire job to be there to support them. In the kindest way, it’s not my problem if they fail; I’ll help them the best way that they can, and that often means letting them risk failing. I’m there to stand beside them, not in front or behind. 

There are many reasons to not want to be a parent.

This is one that really hits home for me. I have reasons to not want to be a parent that aren’t just not liking children.

I’m a teacher. I’ve seen the impact that bad parenting can have on a child.

Most of the parents that I work with mean well, but it is clear that some of them didn’t ever intend to be parents. They love their kids and try really hard, but I can tell. I know that their children can tell as well.

I don’t think that I would make a very good parent. I’m not consistent enough for one thing, I love trying new things and losing track of time. I like to disappear for a while to pursue a particular hobby. I feel like if I had a little person who depended on me, then either I would not be able to give them the stable routine and attention that they need or I would begin to resent them for demanding that from me.

I think I would like to be a parent, and I think I could be good enough. That is still only a think and a could, though. I don’t want to take that risk with someone’s life when I don’t have to.

“I know that having a child may be difficult in the beginning, but it will be worth it when they grow up!” “They will give you grandchildren who you can spoil, and support you in your old age.”
These sound like very selfish reasons to want a child.

I know from my own experience that you can’t assume your children are going to be anything. I’m sure my parents expect grandchildren that I don’t intend to give them. I’ve also seen parents get furious at their child when they don’t have as strong a connection and sense of loyalty to them as they intended.

None of these things have anything to do with liking children or not, and none of them make me a better or worse teacher. Teaching is just a job, after all.

This is a complicated topic.

These are all my current views based on my own experiences, and I’d really appreciate hearing yours as well. 

Do you feel like being a parent makes you a better teacher? How similar do you view your role with your students compared to with your own children? I’d love to hear your perspective!

Please leave a comment below, email me at [email protected], or on Twitter @WillToTeach.

Elise is an enthusiastic and passionate Australian teacher who is on a mission to inspire and support fellow educators. With over a decade of experience in the classroom, Elise leverages her expertise and creativity to provide valuable insights and resources through her blog. Whether you're looking for innovative lesson ideas, effective teaching strategies, or just a dose of inspiration, Elise has got you covered.

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