5 Lessons I’ve Learned as a Teacher & Mom

Being a teacher is hard. Being a mom is hard. I don’t think there is anyone who would debate these two statements (especially in light of what’s going on right now with kids and parents being thrust into the homeschool/virtual learning world). Even for me, this has taken a considerable amount of adjusting, patience, grace, deep breathing, and a few bottles of wine. I mean, you would think this would be pretty easy for me. I’ve been a teacher for 19 years and a mom for 17, but even for me, I’ve had to give myself a bit of a learning curve to finally feel somewhat comfortable with our new routine.

However, some things have become even more obvious during this time, things that I’ve seen from my own children, my students, and their parents. Although there is no manual and no one-size-fits-all for how to parent, there are some things that I’ve learned over the years and have had to take into consideration during these last few weeks that I thought would be helpful to share with others.

So here we go. Here are 5 lessons that I’ve learned (or that have become painfully obvious) during the past couple of months.

#1 Have your kid’s back, but don’t be naive. As much as we all want to believe that those little people who came from us are sweet, innocent angels who could never do any wrong, we need to be realistic. Think back on your own childhood. How much mischief did you get in to? What sneaky things did you try to get away with? I’m sure you’re smiling as you think back. I know my siblings and I are still confessing to our parents things we did when we were kids, things that would have gotten us in some trouble. Our kids are no different. When Mom and Dad are away, the kids will play. So while it is natural to want to take up for your kids when you think they’ve been wronged, sometimes your kids have done wrong.


“He said he didn’t know he had to turn in the assignment.” “She said she’s never been late for your class.” I can’t tell you how many parent-teacher conferences have started with upset parents, ready to go to bat for their kids, only to end with up hurt and confused parents who have just learned that it was all a lie once the truth was actually revealed, parents who took their kids word first and never considered an alternative. I’m not saying to never believe your kids, but just like you question the cable person on the phone about whether or not what they’re offering is really the “best” price, dig into your kid’s stories and remember all of the ridiculous excuses you used to use to get yourself out of trouble. And then question your kid again.

#2 Practice with-it-ness. If you’re a teacher, you know what I’m referring to here. In the classroom, teachers get evaluated on how “with-it” they are meaning are you the teacher at the board in the front of the classroom with your back to class as they throw paper balls at you and sneak out of their seats or are you the teacher who is able to intercept a note being passed, correct the student who just mispronounced a word while reading out loud, and give the death stare to the student who was about to shove that cookie in his mouth all without missing a beat. Sounds crazy, but when you have 30 students in a class at one time, being focused on only thing at a time can lead to total chaos, so teachers are expected to have that “with-it-ness” about them to know what is going on around them at all times.

The same is true for parents. You can’t be so focused on one thing that you don’t take time to notice another. Yes, as parents, we have a lot on our plates: work, kids, bills, health, etc. Having to work late or having a lot of stress shouldn’t negate your duties as a parent. As parents, we still have to stay alert and be aware of what our kids are doing. Nobody is perfect, but there are some things that we need to stay on top of, for our kids’ safety, well-being, and their futures. Who are they spending time with? How much time do they spend on the phone? Do they really NEVER have any homework? Has their mood changed lately? What time are they really going to bed at night? I’m not saying that you will always know everything your kids are doing, but I am saying do your best to be all up in their business as much as they won’t like it.

#3 – Come into the 21st century or your kids will get a way with murder (of course, not literally). Oh, my dear parents, your kids are so much smarter with this technology thing than you give them credit for. And if you don’t learn what they know, you will be left in the dark especially if they have their own smart phone, tablet, and/or computer. You’d be surprised at just how much there is out there for your child to get into and to see. This goes right along with #1 and #2 on this list. You’ve got to be alert and know what’s going on. There are specific apps your kids can download in order to be able to search the internet undetected. There are seemingly innocent apps that seem like harmless fun that gives them access to other videos and people you may not want them interacting with. Do some research of your own; there are many articles out there that describe all of these different apps and sites. (This is one of my favorites websites: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/)

With that being said, you need to be comfortable with the technology yourself. I’m surprised by the number of parents in our county who still don’t know how to access their student’s grades online. And now that we are all a part of this virtual learning world, how many have no clue how to monitor their child’s work when their kid is at home with them. Just like you were thrown into this this homeschool teacher role, teachers were thrown into the online teaching world and had to basically teach ourselves how to use all of these online tools.

Helping my 3rd grader navigate through his work while asking my 11th grader how to get from here to there online, has helped me considerably. Have your child show you how to log in and then learn to navigate it yourself. Click around on the site, look at the classes, the assignments, calendars, and the gradebook. Your not “knowing” how to do it shouldn’t be a reason your child gets away with not completing the work. Just like you’d research the best medicines and doctors for your child if he/she was extremely sick, learn how to navigate their online world. You’ll be surprised how on top of things your child will be when he/she knows that you are on top of it as well.

#4 – Prepare them for when you can no long carry the weight. I just used this analogy with my 17-year-old the other day. I told him to think of adulthood as a heavy weight that he must learn to carry. When you’re born, your parents hold all of the weight for you, but as you get older, you begin to share some of the weight. The older you get, the more weight you start to hold and release off your parents. The idea is that when you become an adult, you will be able to carry the full weight on your own. However, what I’ve seen many parents doing is holding all of the weight for their children constantly and then expecting to release them into the adult world and just letting the weight drop on them. Unfortunately, your child will not have developed the muscles needed to carry that weight, and they’re going to be crushed by it. Is this making sense?

I just mean that we have to start giving our kids more responsibilities as they get older, holding them accountable for their actions (i.e. getting the grade they deserve if they didn’t do the work), and allowing them to make mistakes and learn and grow from them. We can’t run around trying to make everything right and easy for them. You’re an adult. You’ve experienced plenty of life. How nice has it been to you? How often does someone come along and lighten the load for you? Help your child develop the muscles needed to navigate the adult world so they’re better equipped to stand strong under the pressure.

#5 – Everybody doesn’t get a trophy. As much as we would want our kids to be good at everything they try, we know that that is just a fantasy. Our kids are not going to be the straight A student, star athlete, musical prodigy, child entrepreneur, who volunteers at the nursing home on weekends and never has to be asked to clean his/her room. Our kids are going to have their strengths and their weaknesses. AND THAT’S OKAY. You’re not in competition with anyone else to have the best “child” and your child should have the opportunity to explore and discover what they love and excel at without the pressure of having to be perfect.

The problem comes when we as parents don’t want to acknowledge that our kids aren’t going to be great at everything. We have to be willing to let our kids struggle, be disappointed, not make the team, not get honor roll, not be the next TikTok star, and accept who they are. And when they find that thing that they are great at, we need to be their biggest cheerleader.

One of my biggest pet peeves at work is parents who tell their kids that they have to get A’s in a certain class, like if they just believe that they’re suddenly good at math or will themselves to be a stronger writer, then they will automatically become it. Or parents that make their kids take higher-level courses because it looks good on paper, but all the while the child’s heart isn’t in it and they find themselves drowning in work that they can’t understand. Encourage your kids to try new things and challenge themselves, but also let them know that they won’t be great at and love everything they try or have to do and either way, you will accept and love them.

Allow me to say “Thank you” if you’ve read this far. LOL. I hope this offered you some insight. I’m not a parenting expert nor do I claim to know it all. Believe me; I am taking my own advice as well because I’ve experienced all of these with my own children. My prayer is that we will unite as that village and truly work together to do what’s best for this generation and the generations to come. I’ll give you a little of what I’ve learned and look forward to learning from you.

Words of a Butterfly

Photo by Evie S. on Unsplash

Too many of us get wrapped up in the comfort 

of the cocoon that was only meant 

to be temporary 

a place for us to digest all of the knowledge 

and experiences 

we had eaten 

those things that were meant to transform us into  

the beautiful butterflies 

we were destined to become. 

It is time for us to break free 

from our cocoons, 

unwrap and spread our wings 

and soar to new heights,  

pollinating the world 

with our talents, 

and newfound wisdom  

as we travel from destination 

to destination 

interacting with and touching the lives of others 

leaving them with 

the sweet nectar of a memory 

of time spent with us. 

No longer are we allowing our cocoons  

to keep us hidden away 

but with newfound wings 

spreading hope and joy 

throughout the world 

no longer holding back 

all that’s inside us 

because 

fear 

is 

now 

gone. 

We have begun to see ourselves 

and love ourselves 

the way God does. 

And slowly, 

yet confidently, 

we are gracefully growing 

into our destiny. 

Living the life 

of a beautiful butterfly. 

Michelle D. Robinson

January 29, 2018

Education in America is a Freaking Joke

Education in America is a freaking joke 

I need you to sit down and take note 

As a teacher I can explain to you firsthand 

The foolishness on which I must expand 

About the career I’ve chosen 

About what’s got me groanin’ 

Questioning the choices I’ve made 

That’s brought me to this day 

Where I have to explain 

The craziness in which I am daily forced to partake 

And I say again, 

education in America is a freaking joke 

I don’t mean to rain on or take away your hope 

I just wanted to give you some insight 

To explain to you this plight 

About a system that no longer works 

About a system plagued with anger, frustration, and hurt 

In order to so-called “compete” with other nations 

We’ve sacrificed the very essence of education 

Because it’s all a sick, twisted game 

Where teachers are always the ones left to blame 

Teachers are rated on test scores  

So now their lesson content has become a bore 

Testing is seen as the only way to understand 

The brilliance inside of a boy or girl’s head 

The kids don’t respond because they know it’s no longer about them 

The system’s not set up for them to win 

It serves to just further divide  

A nation that seems set to commit suicide 

No child left behind 

Has left most of them struggling to find 

A place where they belong, to fit in 

A place where they, too, can feel like they can win  

And what about the parents 

Why isn’t this problem apparent 

That their lack of participation 

Only adds to the devastation  

Why do they get to sit back with fingers pointed 

And not realize how much they contribute to this disjointed 

And broken system that makes no sense 

How long will this insanity persist? 

Come on America  

When will we get it right? 

When we will we stand up and fight? 

We need to make the classroom a place 

Where children have the chance to be great 

To see what makes them special and unique 

Without constant fear of a harsh and judgmental critique 

Let’s teach them the lessons and values that they really need 

Now just how to pick between answer choices A ,B ,C, and D 

Help them to discover the talents they possess 

Show them how to turn that into success 

Help them to compete with themselves 

Not just constantly compare them to someone else 

Give the teachers creative freedom 

And trust that they have enough wisdom 

To guide their students to the next level 

Without the stupid tools you use to measure 

How “effective” they are when do what they do 

And by the way, 

Why don’t you let them do what you hired them to do? 

None of us got in this to teach kids how to test 

We got into it to make our students the best 

Versions of themselves they can possibly be 

Showing them all that they can possibly achieve 

If someone would just believe 

In them and inspire them to dream 

Not just worry whether they’re a level 1, 2, or 3. 

Give teachers back the control 

Sit back and just watch what will unfold  

The knowledge that will be shared 

Kids who will know that there’s someone who cares 

Laughter and discussion, giving and taking 

Future leaders and thinkers we will be making. 

I pray that one day I will wake up from this nightmare 

Before I’ve decided that it’s more than I can bare 

Before I give up like so many before me 

Before I decide that teaching isn’t my destiny 

I’m gripping as hard as I can to this hope 

Don’t want to give up, don’t want to have to go 

No longer do I want to feel like it’s so, 

That education in America  

is just  

a freaking joke.  

Michelle D. Robinson 

December 19, 2017 

Troublemakers

We’re here to trouble the world for the Lord 

To go against the status quo 

To challenge the things that have always been accepted 

To tend to those the world has neglected 

We can no longer be silent as those around us perish 

When we can show them His love, His mercy, and compassion 

We can no longer sit in our bubble of judgement 

Living in our circle of righteous contentment 

Not welcoming those who aren’t like us into our environment 

Looking down on the world with a sense of detachment 

That’s not what He placed us here on the earth to do 

That’s not why He changed us, made us new 

It’s not a top secret for us to keep to ourselves, hidden  

It’s not a secret society that others have to pay to get in 

No, He’s already paid the price, paid the price for us all 

No one is to be left behind, no one destined to fall 

Do you hear me? It’s time for us to take a stand! 

Shout about the One who saved every woman and man 

There are people hurting, souls that are lost 

All because we’re not sharing that He took the cost 

Of our sins on His shoulders so we could be set free 

That He’s planned good things for us as our destiny 

So don’t be afraid to share the Good News 

Be more afraid of whom we could lose 

If we don’t let them in on this great One we’ve found 

No longer passive; we must live our faith out loud 

Time for us to break out of the walls of the church building  

Time for us to start praying, loving, giving, forgiving 

Time for us to truly be the light all over this globe 

Time for us to share about our peace, our joy, our hope 

Time for us to welcome others in with open arms 

Time for us to declare war against what breaks His heart 

YOU are the church, so please don’t forget it 

And not just on Sunday; every day you’re to live it 

Let’s shake things up; let’s be the agents of change 

We can’t allow what He’s done for us to be in vain 

No longer afraid; we’re here to trouble the world 

Everywhere we go, our voices are gonna be heard 

Our message will be shared, lives transformed 

Nation after nation will learn of His great Word 

You can call us crazy, misled, even instigators 

Just know that we are proud to be His troublemakers

Michelle D. Robinson

October 22, 2019

#iAmSanctuaryGirl

The Present-Minded Life

This morning on the radio there was a segment where they were encouraging people to call in and tell what they would change about their lives if they knew they only had 10 years left to live. It was intriguing and thought-provoking, but also a little unnerving.

Imagine knowing for certain that you only had 10 years left in your life. With that deadline looming over you, how would you live your life differently? I allowed myself to indulge in this thought with one of my first ideas being that I would actually hook up and hang out with my friends and family more regularly like we always promise we will do (at least once a month) instead of when we actually see each other (every 6 months to a year, at funerals, or at weddings).

But then I started thinking…why should that be the push to do something that I really want to do, something that I claim is important to me? Why would it take knowing exactly how limited my time is before I would decide to get my act together and stop living like tomorrow is promised?

With the recent unexpected deaths of people my age (high school classmates, Kobe Bryant), I’m starting to feel the pressure to get it together and live life to the fullest.

But why do we do that?

Why do we wait until some tragedy comes along in order for us to decide that we need to embrace this beautiful thing called life and get every last drop of goodness out of it?

It’s because we all live with the future in mind, that future that promises that all of our dreams will come true and that we will have the happily-ever-after ending, that we’ll die peacefully in our beds surrounded by friends and loved ones after we’ve finished living our best life.

But that, my friend, is not promised. Not to any of us.

Yet we live as if it is. And we act as if that happy ending will happen all on its own.

In order to have that fairy-tale ending, WE HAVE TO PUT IN THE WORK NOW. No one knows when their life will end, but we all know that one day it will. Death is inevitable, and we only get one chance at life. So why, why do we put off until tomorrow what we can do TODAY?

My friend, Monica Perez Burnett, put it this way, “You deserve the life you tolerate.” Let that sink in.

Now don’t think that I’ve got it all together. This is as much a message to myself as it is to you, friend. But I really want all of us to consider that if 10 years from now we looked back on today, would we be happy with what we see ourselves doing right now?

Today I can say that the answer would be yes because I worked my Sanctuary Girl business, took time for myself, and I relaunched my blog (which I’ve been vowing to do for MONTHS ). But will I be able to say that tomorrow? Will I keep that same passion and drive tomorrow or will I revert back to the complacent, I-can-do-it-tomorrow mindset that seems to plague us all periodically?

We can rewrite what the future looks like for us, but it calls on us to be present-minded. It calls on us to live today not like it’s our last but like we are writing our future the way we want it to be. So that even if our lives ended before we expected, we could be proud of the path that we were on, the work we had put in, the goals we were crushing.

The book won’t get written if you never start it. That house will never get purchased if you don’t start working on your credit and savings today. That friend won’t know how much they mean to you if you don’t reach out and connect with them today. You won’t leave that legacy that you want for your children, your grandchildren, and generations to come.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

I’m challenging all of us TODAY to become present-minded, to be a part of the ANTI-REGRET LEAGUE. (Yes, I just made that up). The point is, I want us all to push every single day to do something that will make our future selves smiles, that will make our future selves look back and say “Today is possible because of the choices I made back then.” Let’s not live a life of regret, one filled with unfilled dreams and potential.

Let’s not settle for anything less than what God has promised us.

What will you do today to ensure that tomorrow is your dream come true?

Check out my poem about this topic here.

The Brevity of Life

Oh, I’ll just do it tomorrow  

Rolls off our tongues 

So easily,  

Carelessly, 

Thoughtlessly  

Day in and day out 

We give in to mediocrity 

Procrastination  

Delaying the work we know must  

Be done 

In order to gratify 

Our own 

Comfort 

In the moment. 

Because, of course,  

We can always do it 

tomorrow. 

Or can we? 

The crazy part is  

We don’t’ really know 

Yet we live life as if we do 

As if we have tomorrow’s tomorrow 

And the tomorrow after that  

To live out that dream that’s 

Bubbling up inside of us 

To forgive that loved one 

Who wronged us 

To try that “thing” that  

Looks like fun to us 

To take the family on that  

Desired trip… 

Go to that place… 

that we’ve been longing to see 

To just be still  

and love on those we hold dear 

To make that call 

Check up on that friend 

Write that book 

This is the list that never ends 

We say that we know that 

Tomorrow’s not promised 

Yet… 

We live as if it is  

As if delaying our dreams 

Will extend our lives 

Until that magical time  

When we are ready to do 

All the things 

We know we should be doing 

Right now 

We move about 

Almost blindly  

As if in a daze 

Making the same excuses 

Going through the same cycle 

Cry, whine, complain,  

Become complacent, vow to do better, 

Dream new dreams, create vision boards 

Declare the same New Year’s Resolutions.  

Wash. Rinse. Spin. 

Repeat. 

But every now and then 

God sends us a painful reminder 

Of just how brief this life is 

That person gone too soon 

Unexpectedly 

Heartbreakingly 

Omg, he was my age! 

She was in her prime! 

They were too young to die! 

They had so much to live for! 

Why are we always so surprised? 

We are all born to die. 

But the difference is always  

How we choose to live out that life.  

Will we embrace the life 

We have right now 

Avoid our future regrets 

Go after our dreams, 

Conquer our fears 

Love, forgive, try, and then try again 

Experience, let go of 

Embrace, enjoy 

Just do  

Before… 

Or will we fall into our same  

Pattern 

Our same  

routine 

Our regularly scheduled program 

Because we want to believe  

We’ve convinced ourselves 

We’ll eventually get it done 

Because there will always be 

Tomorrow? 

Michelle D. Robinson  

January 28, 2020