If you ask second grade girls what they want to be when they grow up, they frequently say, “a teacher.” When the girls grow up, they select a variety of occupations – nurses, lawyers, real estate agents, accountants, and supermarket managers. However, most of them also become teachers, although they may not realize that they have done so.
All women become teachers when they have their first child. That child looks to his mother to teach him how the world works. What do I have to do to get food? How can I go about getting this dirty diaper changed? How do I work a spoon? How will I get that toy I dropped? Can I put this in my mouth? What do I do with this dog? Can you teach me how to work my feet? What’s a toilet? What’s that sign say? Where does the sun go at night? What’s Grandpa doing sleeping in that box?
I certainly don’t mean to diminish the role of fathers, they also become teachers the moment their first is born. Some men are even their child’s primary teacher, more than the mother. It’s just a little more likely that the child looks to the mother to be the primary teacher if she is involved in the child’s life.
In any event, parents are a child’s first and most important teacher and they maintain that position until the point at which their child knows more than they do. Most kids think this transition takes place around the age of 15, but in reality, it doesn’t actually take place until about age 60. That is, you remain as a teaching influence for your child until your intellect starts to decline, when you are approaching death, perhaps around the age of 80.
That said, it’s the longest job you’re ever going to hold. There is no vacation from this job, but you can choose to delegate some of your teaching responsibility to others. You may rely on daycare providers to teach him his colors. You may choose to have a clergyman give your child his religious education. You may leave it up to a school teacher to instruct your child in reading and science. You may take your child to special lessons where a coach will teach him gymnastics. However, the most important lesson, teaching your child how to be a decent human being, can ONLY be taught by you and it can ONLY be taught by example and by guiding your child through practice, providing feedback and positive and negative consequences for his behavior. This is the only aspect of your teaching job that you cannot pass on to someone else. If you don’t do it, no one will.