An Ode to the School Mom
Those Surrogate Moms Who Helped Me Through
Moms. We all have them. Those of us who were privileged enough to have our mothers in our lives know the immense support and comfort in a mother's presence; the advice, the late-night phone calls, the money sent here and there without being requested.
That support system becomes challenging during adulthood; moving away can take away the closeness that once existed. It's harder for your mom to check on you or take care of you when you're sick or overwhelmed.
Enter the school mom.
I'm sure you've all heard of a work husband or wife; someone that you're close with at work who you can talk to the same way you would your S.O. But a school mom is a special breed of support.
I was blessed enough to have three school moms at my first school during my first year of teaching. My team leader, Mrs. H, my subject partner, Mrs. P, and the reading specialist, Ms. N. These three ladies were literally my saving grace during the most difficult year in my career as a teacher.
Mrs. H was a no-nonsense, forceful lady who taught math. She was the firm mom. She would scold the two new teachers on the team when we made mistakes; I remember her doing that thing where she yelled but was still quiet when I left my class unattended for five minutes to run copies, leading to an almost fight. She would remind us to keep our students quiet in the hallway and be on time for lunch. But she was also one of the funniest people that I've ever met, asking random questions at lunch that would make us snort with laughter. Although I missed out on a good chunk of the year with her due to her having a stroke, she was a pillar of strength when the year felt like absolute trash.
She also broke up a fight in my classroom when I didn't know what to do, so there's that.
Mrs. P was across the hall and taught English, had been doing so for years. She was always there as a resource when I wasn't sure how to write a lesson plan or scaffold lessons for my students. She was also there when my students were out of control and I didn't know what to do, especially while Mrs. H was out recovering. She would take troublemakers to sit with her in her classroom, or come in and intimidate them so that they would be quiet. She was also there with practical advice; I remember her telling me that I should drink as much water as necessary to keep me from being dehydrated because going to the hospital in the middle of the school day was not it. One of the things that would make me happiest was when she would compliment me on my lesson plans as I improved throughout the year.
Ms. N was the reading specialist for the school and a complete lifesaver. Because of the nature of her job, she was able to be in the classroom with me during some of my lessons to give me support, correction, and encouragement. She was amazing about correcting me in a way that didn't make me feel like I was a complete failure, always there to remind me that the first year of teaching was really just that hard. She was also a big advocate of self-care, encouraging me to streamline my work and not do extra, and to rest.
My next school mom was Mrs. T; I'm still in regular contact with her, even though we live in different cities now. Mrs. T is a sweet Puerto Rican lady who really adopted me as one of her own children. She encouraged my efforts to learn Spanish (even accidentally speaking to me completely in Spanish and being pleased as punch when I understood her), encouraged me and was excited for me when I was self-publishing my first novel, and supported me when I began my first inquiries into pursuing higher education. I could talk to Mrs. T about anything - relationships, work, hobbies. She was always a listening and supportive ear. She also would go full mommy mode with me sometimes; I remember her asking what I was stressed about because my allergies always got more aggravated when I was stressed. "I will not have your mommy fussing at me because I let you not take care of yourself!" She said, wagging her finger at me.
Finally, at my current school (though both of these ladies have moved away), I had Dr. F. and Ms. C. These ladies helped me acclimate to the new building and district, showing me tricks to make my life easier and giving me tips on how best to interact with the people in the building. They also were wonderful people to talk with and laugh, both about school things and general life things. If one of them went to get coffee or food, they would make sure that I had something. Both of them gave me resources and advice, and I know that they helped me to get steady at my school.
An honorable mention goes to my "school big sister" A. She was - and still is - one of my favorite people. She was also a reading specialist, able to provide advice and training while still feeling more like a sister looking out than a mom. She was one of the people who encouraged me to find a new school when the one that we worked at was becoming too stressful, and I'm so grateful to her for that.
All of these ladies hold a special place in my journey as an educator. They were able to help strike a balance between professional and personal, teaching me their tricks and tips on teaching while reminding me to take care of myself as a person outside of school.
So here's to the school moms in my and other teachers' lives. Our own mothers are grateful to you, and so am I!