10 Things My Newborn Younger Son Taught Me About Education

About Jake Miller

Mr. Jake Miller teaches middle school history near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Foundation Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WeAreTeachers, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

Isaiah, my second son, joined the world at 5:25a on May 4, 2018. In between the midst of nurse and specialist checkups, I had a second to look out the window overlooking a beautiful river-laden landscape, and I remember the article I wrote after my first son joined our family. And how I continue to update it on each of his birthdays.

Now I have a bi-annual reminder for how my favorite classroom teaches this teacher the most about education, if only because it just doubled.

1 – The second time around is easier. It’s amazing how much more at ease my wife and I were for this birth. We’d be lying if we didn’t say anxiety wasn’t present, but it wasn’t as noticeable. I still remember my wife’s face when they placed our first son in my arms. We didn’t know how to change a diaper. Get a baby to take to the breast. Or to swaddle. All that came back almost immediately, and our parenting confidence level skyrocketed.

2 – Until it isn’t. My wife wasn’t ready for the “loneliness” she experienced in the caesarian birth method. We also took for granted how nice our schedule was with the 2-year-old who was in bed by 8p and never, ever woke up overnight. Or how his affable personally never caused any issues. But they’re to come. Similarly, teachers get more comfortable at the classroom doing what they did better. There’s just always more thrown their way.

3 – Not all kids are equal, even if they look the same. Spitting images, yes. Similar personalities? No. There were 2 kids I taught consecutive years: Amel and Alem. One was a huge pain in the rear-end, and the other worked his rear-end off. We can’t snap judgments about kids based upon those who came before them.

4 – Support networks are everything. Are hospital nurses the most underappreciated people in the world? Maybe right next to school nurses and our friends and family? I feel like I want to invite our daylight and nighttime nurses to our child’s first birthday party. People – and students – supported in their time of need flourish because of the network around them. Think about that before punishing the next kid you have in front of you.

5 – Decisions about kids are hard. To breastfeed or formula. Cloth or disposable diapers. Circumcisions or not. There are plenty of decisions tossed your way at the beginning of a child’s life, and they only compound themselves. Parents do their best to take trusted information from science, their medical caretakers, and other reputable sources to do the best they can.

6 – Harder when you don’t personally agree with them. As I was getting the car seat for Isaiah, I rode the elevator with someone smoking a cigarette (a big no-no). She also just had a baby, and wished me congratulations. She also said she couldn’t wait to get home to eat a frozen dinner. Keeping my mouth closed had never been harder. Except at a few parent-teacher conferences when even the 8th grade kid knows he’s getting away with whatever he wants.

7 – Modeling is the most important instructor. There are so many things one could read about introducing an older child to his newborn sibling, but none is more important than modeling. Kids are watching at all times. How you treat your spouse, your newborn, the cool kid, or the shy, dejected one is something they’ll emulate, whether you like it or not.

8 – There’s no peace like holding a baby in your arms. I umpired baseball for most of my life, and I loved it because I stood on a field with the best seat during my favorite game in the world. I had to relinquish that responsibility when our family started to grow. A good question to ask yourself is, “how do you bring peace to students’ lives?” It’s something I need to improve in my own practice.

9 – It’s great to move from inexperienced, wide-eyed bystander to active participant. I sucked at being supportive the first when I first began this “dad” thing. Hell, before the baby was even born I passed out. But this time through I felt like I was a calming presence for my wife, got to yell out the gender “IT’S A BOY” feels damn good, got to cut the umbilical cord, and built skin-to-skin contact for the first 15 minutes of the baby’s life. It felt even better to calm a dad who was sitting in the “education room” trying to figure out his place in his new, upended world. I went over, helped teach him how to swaddle, and told him to just be the calming presence. May we experienced teachers do the same for the newest who join our fraternity.

10 – Experience builds character. It doesn’t matter what we do – the more we do it, the better it becomes ingrained in who we are. I still remember the first time I stood in the batter’s box in Little League, behind the catcher with my umpire gear, was at the front of the classroom. That feeling of exhaustion of breath, tightening of the mouth, and the brewing in the belly is hard. But it wanes as our confidence – and character – grows.

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About the Author:

Mr. Jake Miller teaches middle school history near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Foundation Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WeAreTeachers, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

4 Comments

  1. Bryan K Hower May 9, 2018 at 9:09 am - Reply

    Congratulations buddy! Nice article and it is easier and you find yourself not as worried about things so much and go with the flow more. We will have a little bear or octopus for your newborn soon.

  2. Cindy Ollendyke May 9, 2018 at 10:37 am - Reply

    You are right Jake, our children are our best teachers! Contact to you and your family!

  3. Debbie Balasundram May 9, 2018 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Well written Jake! I’m not sure how you find the time to do all that you do! Congratulations to your family.

  4. Jen S. May 9, 2018 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Congratulations! One day your children and your students will read this or one of your other articles and recognize the impact you’ve had on their lives.

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