Opting In and Opting Out (Part One)

Here is a picture of my daughter. :-)

Yep, there she is living and breathing at her desk in my real, live, public third grade classroom.  My decision to have my daughter in my class was a personal one. It is not something that I had planned for years in advance. It was just something that felt very “right” to my husband and I as the time approached.

When people find out that my daughter is in my class, they always curiously question if it is even allowed. I’m sure the rules are different from school to school. Lucky for me, there are not any rules in my school district about teaching your own child. My principal has been extremely supportive.

Many people wonder about how this scenario pans out on a daily basis. My answer to them is that if an outside observer came to my classroom, they wouldn’t even know that she is my daughter. It is business as usual in Room 222, and she receives the exact same treatment as every other child in my class. It works out well in our case because she is an independent kid who loves to learn. She is also secure and confident (not clingy). 

My daughter and I have both become quite skilled at wearing our different hats throughout the day. I am “Mom” until 8:34 A.M., but become “Mrs. Rissmiller” at 8:35. She is my sassy eight year old daughter until 8:34 A.M., and then becomes my high-spirited student at 8:35. The same shift happens in reverse at 3:25 P.M. You get the picture.

Many people also wonder about what she calls me during the school day. The answer to this question is that (by her choice) she really does not address me by name. She never calls me “Mom” during the school day, and occasionally calls me “Mrs. Rissmiller” if she needs to get my attention for something urgent. For example, I heard her say “Mrs. Rissmiller” the other day when she interrupted my lesson to tell me that a water bottle had just spilled all over the floor. ;-) 

This opportunity has taught me a lot about both motherhood and teaching. In fact, I may have learned more this school year than the other 18 years combined. It is a whole new ball game when you are helping at home with the homework that you have assigned. Believe me when I say that I have gained new insights on projects, study guides, and reading logs. Teaching my daughter has reaffirmed what I already knew about the value of loving my students.

Don’t get me wrong, there are challenges that arise when you teach your own child in a public school setting. Interesting situations frequently come up that keep me on my toes and force me to make quick decisions without crossing the line. My daughter’s friends are my students, and their parents are the ones with whom I sit with on the sidelines of basketball and softball games. This is the year when all of my worlds collide.

The silver lining is that we have this very special year in our lives to spend together and bond in ways that were never before possible. She gets to see me in action, doing what I love to do. I get to experience her as a student and learn things about her that I never knew when I was “just” her mom. 

Now you know all about my decision to opt in. Stay tuned for part two of this blog post. Then you will learn about why we are “opting out”.

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