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  • Writer's pictureRobert Ahdoot

Confessions of a now-dad educator, part 1

It's different now.

My first daughter just turned one month old. While having children was always part of my plan, I never knew how I would change until it happened.

When I first went back to work and saw tens, then hundreds, of teens swarming around, something hit me. In my daily/nightly adventure spent caring for, looking after, monitoring, and tuning into my child, I realized that every student sitting before me was once a month old too, crying at 4 am, totally dependent, totally pure. To see that infancy still embedded within my students leads to an overwhelming surge of connection on a level different than what it used to be. Before, I could only say that I "got" kids. Now, I can say that I got kids. How does being a parent affect my practice as an educator? It's still very early to say, but so far, from a deeply raw, primal place I find myself taking on situations that I let slide before. One such situation happened just this past Friday, during the last class of the week. Most of my students were away on a field trip, so in the room were only me and five others. We finished all our work early, so as a fun activity, I introduced a couple mind-bender games of arranging markers on the table. So four of the five students were playing around with the arrangements, trying to get the solution, while one student was off to the side, playing with his GameBoy. In a split second, I felt a creeping wave of unease stir within in. On a subconscious level, I envisioned my child shunning this pleasant, socially interactive moment, and instead opting to render herself invisible from people only two seats away. I looked over at him and said lightly, invitingly, "Really, dude? Are you gonna be that guy who doesn't join us?" I even went provocative, to the effect of, "are you so much a product of your generation that you won't come sit with us?" I know those words may look somewhat harsh as I share them here in textual form, but believe me, in my friendly, "really, dude?" tone, I pulled it off, because he pocketed that thing and zipped right over with pep in his step. You see, before, in thinking that I "got" kids, I'd rationalize his choice to isolate himself. I'd say, "well, we are done with the work for the day." Or, "well, it is Friday, and there is value in letting him zone out for a little." Or how about, "well I get it, I had a GameBoy too when I was a kid. Yes, it was the throw-up color green screened version, but it was a GameBoy nonetheless." Through these rationalizations, I avoided the fundamental question: would I be ok if my child were behaving this way? In a room of a few, with rare quality class time not spent on math for a change, good vibes, and fun games abound? The answer is clearly no, I wouldn't be ok with it. I'd want my child to unplug from the device and plug into the people. In a sense, teaching my students math is shifting from my finish line to my starting line. My role as an educator is currently in the process of evolving forever. Next week I will reverse the question: how will being a decade-long educator affect my practice as a parent?

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