My very favorite college professor of all time said something once that I will never forget. It guides every interaction I have with my students. She said, "The students in your classroom are more than just your students. Each one of those students is also someone's baby." I don't know why that simple, obvious fact had such a powerful impact on me, but it did. Before I say something to a student or to my class, particularly if I am upset, disappointed, frustrated, or angry, I pause and ask myself, "Would I want a teacher to treat my baby this way?"
Sadly, I have watched my own daughter go through school being treated ways I would never want my baby to be treated. My daughter has been screamed at, ridiculed, made fun of, and cussed at. All by teachers. Sad, isn't it? But my daughter has come through relatively unscathed. She sees those teachers for the insensitive, burned-out crabs that they are. She was able to handle it. One thing that helped her was having parents at home who treated her like she was their baby!
Something else that I have recently realized -- and I don't know why I didn't realize this before since it is also quite obvious -- is that sometimes children come to school and yes, they are someone's baby, but they don't get treated that way at home. Kids come to school all the time from terrible, difficult situations -- parents who abuse, beat, neglect, and ridicule their babies. Parents who abuse drugs or alcohol. Parents who don't feed their children or wash their clothes or make them their meals or help with their homework or come to school functions. Kids who have to fend for themselves or take care of their other family members. Babies who have to handle adult situations and problems. Those kids in particular need us teachers to treat them like they are our own babies. We teachers may be the only kind adult they encounter each day. Please know that I am not necessarily criticizing the parents. Some parents are just horrible parents, and some parents just can't always do what they need to or want to -- circumstances just don't allow it. So in the absence of a parent who doesn't always treats his or her baby like they should, the teachers need to do it. In loco parentis. Some teachers don't do this, though. Instead they label these kids disruptive, troublemakers, liars, lazy, dirty, unfocused, immature, bullies, brats, mean, irresponsible, sneaky, or stupid. What a travesty. What a heartbreak. Is this how we would treat our own babies? Is this how we would want teachers to treat our babies? God, I hope not.
As we get ready to start a new school year, I challenge all teachers to remember that those students who enter our classrooms are all someone else's babies. It doesn't matter if they are in kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, starting high school, or finishing high school -- they are all someone's baby! And when we come across a student who is particularly challenging, try to remember the doctrine of in loco parentis. Especially for kids whose parents can't or won't be the parent they need to be. Every child deserves this from their parents AND their teachers.