For many of us who were raised by teachers, class was always in session. We were taught to follow rules, sit properly in our chairs and not piss off the teachers. We always handed in top-notch assignments since teachers know the tricks of the trade. My mom would stay up all night making sure my science project had those unique and creative touches that even the kid of an advertising executive wouldn’t know to include. Modern society may call that helicopter parenting. I call it growing up with a teacher as your parent.
Here are 20 things you know if you were raised by a teacher:
1. You cannot half-ass any projects ever. When my assignment was “Write a journal entry from Civil War times,” I showed up at school with my entry on homemade, antique-looking paper. Didn’t everyone spend their evenings transforming simple homework assignments into hour-long art projects? (Here’s a how-to for antiqued paper: Use a wet tea bag to soak coarse paper, bake it in the oven and burn the edges for the finishing touch.)
2. You will win contests you didn’t even know you entered. Back in the day, teachers didn’t tell you which assignments could be entered into contests, but I have a suspicion that my mom knew which ones were eligible, because certain assignments were given more TLC than others. Daughters of the American Revolution Essay Contest winner, check. Martin Luther King Jr. Art Contest winner, check. Contests that I had never heard of before, check.
3. Lunchtime is always 10:45 a.m., even on the weekends. I won’t even tell you what time breakfast was served.
4. Letters, numbers and colors are for babies. That’s right. You better learn that stuff by age 2 so you can move on to learning kindergarten material before preschool.
5. You know “the look.” Teachers know the art of the disappointed, scary look because they don’t have the time or energy to yell every time a student acts out. My mother used the same look at home. The look meant, You are doing something annoying, ridiculous or irresponsible. Stop immediately.
6. You know what happens when your parent starts using their “teacher voice.”
7. Misbehaving in class is not an option, since your parent is friends with all your teachers. You don’t get sent home with a note from your teacher, and you don’t have time to come up with an excuse for why you passed that note to your friend during a 45-minute lecture on the Great Depression. Nope, your parent gets stopped in the hallway for a full report right after class ends.
8. Setting up classrooms is an appropriate skill to add to your resume. Instead of hiring a babysitter at the end of August, my mom would take me to school with her to help set up her classroom. In her kindergarten classroom, I would help organize the seating arrangements, decorate the door and help set up the class library.
9. Playing hooky is never acceptable. This would be the ultimate parental embarrassment.
10. Teacher gossip is as juicy as The Real Housewives. It makes for great dinnertime conversation until it gets creepy and makes the evening news.
11. Packing lunch the night before is mandatory.
12. Your entire garage is filled with school supplies.
13. Grading is the most important thing ever.
14. The school day does not end when the kids leave.
15. Never make any comments about teachers having summers off unless you want to unleash the beast.
16. You cannot ever not do your homework, because your parent still does homework.
17. Your parent doesn’t bother with your parent-teacher conferences.
18. You may play doctor or house, but playing school might send your parent to a psych ward.
19. By the end of the day, your parent is really sick of seeing and hearing kids. No matter how much they love you, you aren’t an exception.
20. When someone asks you what you want to be when you grow up, do not say “teacher.” My mom was always stressed by the students, the parents, the administration, the extra work, the long hours and the low pay. She instilled in us that if we were going to be stressed and underappreciated, we should at least find a stressful career that pays more.
As my son enters preschool this year, I can’t help but think about my exaggerated career as a student. To be frank, I’ve been to school for a total of 22 years of my life. I never once wanted to go into teaching. The thought of watching over those kids all day long is awful! But hanging with friends in the cafeteria, reading CliffsNotes, staying up late to write reports, sneaking written notes during class, what’s not to like? Being a student felt comfortable; it felt like home. I hope my son feels comfortable in school too. I hope he gets excited about interesting work and learning new things. And if he doesn’t, I’ve hired my mom as a boot-camp-style substitute teacher.