Which Footprints Were Mine?


By Pamela Smitherman, CPS parent

You may have heard the question, “What is your ‘green footprint’?” The question is asking how do your activities/behaviors impact the environment where you work and live; how do they impact planet Earth? For example, if you recycle bottles and cans, then you are helping reduce trash in landfills. If you let the sink water run when you brush your teeth, then you are wasting a precious resource.

I am a substitute teacher for Cincinnati Public Schools. I am also a parent of three North Avondale Montessori (NAM) children and one former NAM student. My general perspective is that people do what is familiar. Being on both sides of the classroom door—parent and teacher—I started noticing that some of my sons’ behavior at home mirrored my students’ behavior at school. (Of course, I noticed most the behaviors with which I was not pleased.)

I knew how these behaviors slowed progress in the classroom. I knew how these behaviors slowed progress at home. But it wasn’t until I thought about my own children in their classrooms that I began to wonder if their familiar home behavior—what I was not pleased with—was being displayed at school. And if so, what was the impact in their classrooms? I asked myself, “Which of MY ‘parental footprints’ were helping or hindering academic achievement in my children’s classroom?”

I thought about the behaviors that I did not like happening in my class. For example, the little issues that quickly became big ones and resulted in tasks taking too long to complete. I asked myself if I allowed those behaviors at home. If I did, what impact could that be having on my child’s classroom; on his teacher?

  1. Does my child talk to his brother while I’m talking to him? Is he talking to his classmate when the teacher is talking?
  2. Does my child interrupt me when I’m talking to someone else? Does he interrupt the teacher?
  3. Does my child follow my instructions the first time? Or only after I get angry from repeating myself? Does the teacher have to give directions to him more than once?
  4. How does my child accept my answer when it’s not the one he wants? Does he debate with the teacher to change the answer? Does he get angry? Yell threats? Strike out?
  5. Do my children follow the rules or procedures? Do I enforce the rules or change them a lot? Did my child perform the task at the appointed time? Does my child ask to be the exception to the rule? Did my child disobey the teacher or just not believe her/him?
  6. What tone does my child use when he talks to me? Does he talk to the teacher respectfully? Does he recognize the teacher’s authority? Does he view the teacher as his peer?
  7. How does my child know when I find his behavior unacceptable? Could the teacher correct him with a look? Did it take many tries? Did she have to stop class and talk to him individually?

I realized there were some ‘parental footprints’ that I did not like that might be in the classroom. I concluded that this was unacceptable. Therefore, I resolved to be more consistent and enforce consequences.

As a parent, I want my family to be represented well and I have told my children such. As a teacher, I don’t want my children’s behavior to ever hinder another child’s education. My children have been told, “I’d rather you go to school, be quiet, and come back dumb than to hear that you acted a fool and stopped someone else from learning.”

For many years, North Avondale Montessori has had a great reputation for being a great place to learn. Let’s counteract the boisterous complaints of a few critics. Speak praises about our school and its successes. Leave a legacy of your very own ‘parental footprint’ for learning.

Pamela Smitherman has been a North Avondale Montessori School parent since 1999 and has served as LSDMC parent representative and co-chair. She has filled daily substitute teaching jobs and long-term assignments in Cincinnati Public Schools’ elementary and high school classes for more than 10 years.