DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: This is only my second year as an elementary school teacher. Last year was as stressful an introduction to my new profession as I thought it could be. Then this year started, and it has already put a good bit of strain on me because, among other things, one of my students is my first cousin’s oldest child, which wouldn’t be so bad if his mother wasn’t a first-class helicopter mom. My cousin is pretty chill, but his wife is a mess when it comes to their kids.
Since we’re only a couple of weeks into the new school year, it’s still possible for me to ask for a student switch, using the family connection as a potential conflict of interest. But I’m guessing that won’t fly for two reasons — last year one of the fifth grade teachers had her own kid in her class, and I know my cousin’s wife would hold it against me forever as a rejection of her child if I did the switch, which it truly would not be.
I feel caught here, because I think no matter how I interact with my new student, it’s going to be judged and potentially misread by my cousin’s wife.
Which do you see as the lesser of two evil — keep my young cousin in class, or ask for the transfer? --- CONFOUNDED COUSIN
DEAR CONFOUNDED COUSIN: You may see yourself as being in a bit of a pickle, but I see it as an opportunity to hone some invaluable skills that should serve you well for the rest of your teaching career. I’d be willing to bet that your cousin’s wife isn’t going to be the only overly involved parent you’ll be dealing with this year, and you can’t transfer all their children out to another class. A second possible complication you’ll be facing with a relative on your roster is that some fellow students and their parents may accuse you of favoritism, which is something I’m sure you’ve also thought about, and will encounter as long as you’re teaching.
Being accused of favoritism and dealing with hovering parents come with the territory; and learning early on in your career how best to deal with both elements of your job will hopefully make you a better teacher.
If you feel you’d benefit from some specific guidance, perhaps your school’s administrators could either work with you directly or assign you a mentor to help get you over some of these rough patches. From what I’ve heard, this is a fairly common practice for rookie teachers, and since last year was hardly a standard introduction to running your own classroom, it seems entirely reasonable to ask for some direction from those who’ve already been where you are today, starting with your fifth grade teacher colleague with her own kid in her class.