06/06/2013 05:56 pm ET Updated Aug 06, 2013

Four Kinds of Classroom Mothers: Which One Are You?


As I draw upon almost five decades of observing mothers as they have interacted with children, I have come to the conclusion that most mothers fall into the following categories: The helpful, respectful addition to the classroom environment; the networking mother who is looking for friends; the controlling mother who wants to let the teacher know how to teach; and finally the mother who pretends to be an integral part of the school, but distracts the teacher by inappropriate behavior. Perhaps I have missed some categories, but this blog is to help mothers know that the teacher, although always a professional, knows with whom she is dealing.

The first mother mentioned is the teacher's dream parent. She comes to the classroom with open arms and open heart. Her goal is to support the teacher, and to be present in any capacity needed by the teacher. Most parents fall into this category. They simply want to be present for their child's benefit. She is available to the teacher to enrich her program in any way possible: gathering supplies for a project; working with a small group of students while the teacher works with the rest; accompanying the teacher on a field trip; creating art or music or any other kind of project that connects to the teacher's curriculum; and any other function that provides the teacher and the children with a cheerful and positive personality.

The second kind of mother is there only for the purpose of finding other adults with whom to connect. Finding friends within the school environment is one of the nicest parts of being a part of a school community, but chatting and visiting while in the classroom is a big distraction. I had two mothers who used to come in to help during reading group time. They stood in the middle of the classroom talking about their house remodeling, and they always forgot to turn off their cell phones. Finally I had to politely ask them to take their conversation out to the hallway. They never even asked what they could do to be an integral part of the program, and their children missed having them in the classroom.

One year I had a mother come into my classroom just as I was putting up bulletin boards for the beginning of a new school year. She gravitated immediately to the groups of books on the shelf that I was getting ready to use for reading groups. Without any small talk, she lifted the book that was the most difficult, and she told me that this was the book that her daughter should be reading when school began. Usually I had about four or five children who needed a more challenging book for their reading time, but I had not even met her daughter yet, and I did not know where this little girl was academically. I reassured the mother that I had her daughter's best interests at heart, and that I would be evaluating her when school began. The mother proceeded to come into the classroom often during the year, which was something I usually welcomed; however, she always came in with an issue about whether or not her child was in the most advanced groups (when that was not really where the child tested). Eventually, I had the director join us for some of the conferences, but that did not satisfy her either. I felt badly for this sweet child, given the pressure she must have been under at home.

The last category of mothers involves the mothers who come into the classroom uninvited, to tell the teacher or the child "just one quick thing." This is the mother who wants to discuss the child's homework or lack of it from the night before while the teacher is trying to give directions to the students. Very often this mother is a volunteer during the week, so she feels comfortable in the room. Comfort levels are great; however, interrupting the class time can be a detriment to everyone. I even had one mother who used to get angry with some of the children with whom she worked, and yelled at them from the work area outside the classroom! Loud voices and impatience is never a good mixture when working with children of any age.

Perhaps all of this seems obvious to the reader. If it does, I am glad you are evolved enough to qualify for admission to one of the most entertaining places of all... your child's world at school!