I have written that Caemon made me a better person by simply being here. I think that’s fairly common for new parents. Well, it is true for me, anyway. In order to be a good mom, I had to be more energetic, positive, creative, patient, and present than I had ever been before. I was, let’s just say “rough around the edges” before he came along. There’s a reason for that, but once my son was born, it didn’t seem to matter so much because when he arrived, it felt like I had waited my entire life to become the person he would require me to be. It was a challenge, but he was so very worth it. His influence on me extended beyond our home and my role as mother, though. He actually made me a better teacher, and that’s what I want to focus on today.
I am a born teacher. It’s practically the only thing I do well. Yet, the nine years I taught before Caemon was born dim in comparison to the teacher I became when he entered my life. I found myself teaching more from the heart instead of just from my head. I connected with students on a more personal level, and they noticed. They felt that I cared about them, and it made them want to try harder. My teaching persona morphed into a more accessible and compassionate mentor. I dropped the aloofness, let them know me a bit better, and created curriculum around topics and ideas that I thought would help them, both personally and academically.
They came to me in droves, poured out their hearts, and reminded me how vulnerable and earnest they really are. I started thinking of them as individuals rather than an indiscernible collective. I no longer hide my orientation or the gender of my spouse, and there has been zero blowback. That’s because young people are way cooler than their stuffy elders. I dig that about them. They have also been amazing to me in the aftermath of Caemon’s death. Some of them attended his memorial service; they have volunteered at blood drives and signed up on the marrow registry. They attend the Light the Night Walk for Team Caemon and donate books to the book drive.
His legacy touches and inspires my students both directly and through me. I’m so grateful to him for that, for showing me what I could be. I know that when I look back on this period in my life, I will always see it as an amazing transformation possible because of him, my beautiful, wise little teacher.
And now I (Timaree) would like to share a story. Caemon watched his Mama get ready to go to school every day of the school year, and being the observant boy that he was, he developed some very strong ideas about what it meant for Mama to “go teaching.” She would gather her computer bag, her keys, and her coffee, put on her jacket (and often a scarf), and she would head out the door after a kiss goodbye. Beyond that, Caemon wasn’t sure what she did, but it was, to him, the ultimate grownup thing to do.
Like any small child, Caemon wanted to emulate his Mama, so one morning, he started a routine after Jodi left in the morning. He told me that he needed to go teaching. He gathered his things in the extra laptop (a book, a banana) and also his coffee and his keys. Then, he retrieved his jacket, asked me to zip it up, and he then gathered his scarf and asked me to tie it like Mama’s. When he was ready, he told me he was ready to go teaching, and he stood by the front door of the house, ready for his kiss goodbye. He then proceeded to the kitchen where he would “drive” by placing his keys into various cabinets, making driving sounds.
When he finally arrived at his destination (the sliding door in the kitchen), he would sit on the floor behind a curtain, eat a banana, and drink his coffee. This, to him, was “going teaching,” and every last bit of it melted these teacher moms’ hearts.
6 thoughts on “Thirty Days of Caemon–Day Three: Teaching the Teacher”
What a beautiful post. Thanks so much for sharing about all the changes in you that came along with motherhood, and how you see them clearly through their impact on your teaching and your relationships with students. Your students are very lucky to have you – and especially so because of Caemon’s influence, which continues to spread through his impact on your own spirit.
I can’t tell you how much I love this post. My wife is a teacher, and I used to be… and our son (who died last January) looked so much like your beautiful Caemon (it’s why I was first drawn to your blog). Now I will always wonder if he would have grown up to be as adorably precocious (and attuned to his mamas’ professions!) as your little guy. What a wave of emotions hit me in this post. You may just yet inspire me to return to teaching!
Thank you for this beautiful response. I’m so very sorry about your precious boy, that you have had to endure this pain. I (Timaree) also taught before our son was born but not after, and about a year after his death I returned to teaching. I too can say that it has made me a different and better teacher, but the students help me too. In some small ways, I am able feel what it is like to nurture young people, and that feeds the part of me that misses parenting so much.
Thank you both for sharing this memory, this blessing. Your stories often make me cry, but this one has put a smile on my face that will probably last a while.
Beautiful post. As a fellow teacher, it spoke to me. I love the story and pictures too. Thinking of you and your wise boy, who lives on through your words.