2021 BLOG SERIES- WOMAN, MOTHER, ???
First and foremost, I’m excited about this 2021 blog series! The Mom Huddle was created to share our collective journeys. With this in mind, this month we’ll highlight a WOMAN, MOTHER, TEACHER.
Not only is The Mom Huddle a platform for stories, but also serves as a way to create understanding. A sisterhood. On one hand, we won’t always agree. On the other, I believe this is where understanding and growth happens.
When we hear someone’s story and find pieces of ourselves in it, we also find appreciation. Furthermore, we learn and grow.
Enter in Mrs. Jacqueline Miller, our January spotlight. Woman like us. Mother like us. A teacher like only some of us. (To be clear, not me… can you say E-Learning failure?!?)
As I contemplated who made sense for the very first blog in this series, relevance was key. TEACHER continued to float to the top of this list. Mrs. Miller then quickly came to mind. Not only as a teacher AND a mother, but also as one of my boys’ favorite teachers from elementary.
In short, meet Jacqueline Miller.
WOMAN — MOTHER — TEACHER
Jacqueline and her husband, Brett, have two sons, Hudson (5.5 years old) and Camden (almost 3). She also currently teaches second grade.
Here is what Jacqueline had to say about being a woman, mother, teacher, wife, daughter, ALL THE THINGS… oh, and let’s throw in a pandemic.
What has this last year been like for you?
Interesting… (said with chuckles, laced with some exasperation!)
Less than a week after Camden’s second birthday party, the world shut down. It was shocking obviously! Without a doubt, the first week was ROUGH.
Anyone else relate?!?
We found ourselves completely out of routine. Uncertainty. Absolutely running the gamete of emotions in a very short amount of time.
Then came the routine. “We walked the dog DAILY without fail.”
As she shared their rain, shine, snow mentality of sticking to their daily walk, I immediately pictured the postal service motto! “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…”
Then I noticed a pointed shift in how Mrs. Miller described life in the early days of the pandemic:
“We focused on enjoying the little moments.”
The bus lot near their home became an exciting walk-to destination for the kids to see all of the buses.
This made me laugh. I remembered back to when preschooler Jake (now almost 12) LOVED buses. The sight of a bus elicited squeals of joy from the backseat. So much so, in the car despite being BY MYSELF, I pointed out a bus. “Oh look! A bus!!” Yep, the little moments stick with you.
The firehouse also became a Miller adventure destination. Including a guessing game of how many fire truck doors would be open.
In general, slowing down life and NOTICING. Recognizing a beautiful sunrise and discussing all of the colors with Camden.
Not something we typically make time for in a morning of running from point A to B to C in the rat race, is it?
How did the boys do with the uncertainty and routine disruption?
Hudson called COVID “the germs.” They are both really good about wearing masks and understand it’s done to keep others safe. Their grandparents especially.
As an educator, I knew the importance of routine for the boys. Days starting with screen time ended in DISASTER. Applying the slow start method in the morning at home worked just as well as it does in school.
For those like me, not in the know… slow start focuses on games, puzzles, blocks, and interactive play without the use of technology. In the school setting, it’s utilized to teach children to interact and learn to play together. Additionally, giving students a chance to ready themselves for the school day.
I’m guessing this may be a giant ah-ha moment! It was a great take-away for me as well.
TEACHER — MRS. MILLER
As we switched gears from family to career, my admiration grew more than I thought possible. Like a lot of you, I hear the amazing work teachers do day in and day out. Conversely, I admit, I don’t give it enough attention.
In the humblest way, Mrs. Miller shared not just about teaching. In fact, our conversation was very little about the teaching itself, but rather more about the other hats worn. I will tell you; it elicited a lot of conflicting emotions from me.
“Teaching has become so much more than just teaching.”
In general, teaching is now about developing the whole child, not just the educational piece.
First, have they been fed? They cannot learn if not. Additionally, she shared stories of saving unopened food waste from lunches and sending home with kids who do not have enough. Bringing in extra snacks and ensuring a supply of food for kids once they leave school. Even delivering lunches during the pandemic to those in need.
Second, where is their mental health? Observing without bias and ensuring she is not overstepping while simultaneously supporting.
Third, do they have appropriate clothing? She now has a stash of clothes for not only homeless children but also for any child showing up with shoes too small or ill equipped for cold weather.
Did you notice we haven’t even gotten to math, reading, or science yet?
Hence my mixed emotions of admiration, sadness, and even some outrage over the necessity of this.
What is the biggest difference in teaching during the pandemic?
Teachers are really good at multi-tasking. For instance, flipping a child’s book to the correct page while passing by and simultaneously reading to the entire class. Scanning the students as the course work is being delivered and watching for signs of confusion or lack of understanding.
These elements are lost or a lot more difficult to manage when class is on screen.
I attended a Zoom the other day with adults. Some weren’t muted and didn’t realize it. Others were clearly not paying attention and then asking for the messages to be repeated… MULTIPLE times. They were adults. Can you imagine the herding of cats it is having Zoom class in elementary?
Mrs. Miller’s pandemic focus was to work very hard to still giving each child a personal connection. Time on the Zoom for them as well as personal messages on their assignments, for instance. All of this goes above and beyond a typical day when teaching in person.
She mentioned in the beginning of the pandemic assigning more work for the kids. Then realized the sheer volume of trying to give students personal messages on EACH assignment wasn’t sustainable. Adjusting course as needed has been a constant theme for the year.
Another adjustment came in the form of headaches. Staring at a screen all day instead of moving around a classroom was something she didn’t see coming.
CHALLENGES- WOMAN, MOTHER, TEACHER
What has been your biggest challenge personally during this time?
Not being able to see family in person despite knowing the reason why. Undoubtedly heart wrenching.
What has been your biggest challenge professionally during this time?
Empathy exhaustion. There are so many things going on in addition to the pandemic.
To name a few, witnessing families struggling because of the work from home and the school from home situation they find their family in. A constant juggle altogether.
Then witnessing the Black Lives Matter movement and wanting to support those emotionally affected.
Next, watching families already struggling financially further complicated by the pandemic.
Subsequently, you want to be everything for everyone. As a result, it becomes overwhelming and exhausting. In addition, I want to be aware of my own implicit bias and be mindful when making decisions.
BALANCE- WOMAN, MOTHER, TEACHER
We started to talk about balance not only in a normal time, but especially during the pandemic. She was given advice by a mentor that has stuck with her over the years.
You don’t want to save the world and lose your own.
Remembering this message of maintaining a balance of personal life and professional boundaries served her well in the normal as well as the abnormal of late.
She also acknowledged her partnership with her husband, Brett, parenting as a team. Brett is the best cook and does most of the cooking for the family. This allows her playtime with the boys after school instead of jumping straight into household duties.
It’s all about the kids until they go to bed, then we prep for the next day and do some work.
What do you do for self-care?
Hallmark movies! (with a chuckle) With all of the craziness in the world, they are good stories and you know how they will end. It’s low pressure and entertaining.
As the kids get older, she would also like to get back to the gym, but we also laughed about the work-out it is to have little kids. Hudson had 5 THOUSAND steps in two hours running around the house one morning wearing her FitBit.
Pretty sure Jacqueline is getting her steps in just fine chasing them around!
We also agreed the shift in parenting moves from a physical toll to a mental one as the kids age. A weird adjustment for moms when this shift begins!
SUMMARY- WOMAN, MOTHER, TEACHER
What advice would you give to other parents about this time both as a teacher and a mother?
When we look back, we’ll be so grateful for the extra time spent together. Sometimes we get caught up in ALL of the moments, but a few special activities are what the kids are going to remember. In short, enjoy the little moments.
As Camden says, “look at the pretty sunrise!”
I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Mrs. Miller. Getting another perspective on not only what is going on right now in the world for our kids, but also a general snapshot in the life of a teacher. How often do we forget our teachers are often mothers too? They are preparing not only their own children for the world, but ours as well. Clearly in many more ways than just math and reading too.
Thank a teacher. In fact, figure out ways in which you can support them. Mrs. Miller said she LOVES volunteers in the classroom in addition to donation support.
“Someone always needs something.”
We undoubtedly know this as mothers don’t we? Now imagine a classroom full of kids!!!
Thank you to Mrs. Miller and to all of the educators out there. We in The Mom Huddle appreciate YOU!
The duties of a teacher are neither few nor small, but they elevate the mind and give energy to the character. — Dorothea Dix