Bianca Wright, Founding 6th Grade Teacher at Alpha: Blanca Alvarado
December 17, 2018
Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve wanted to be a teacher and a mom. I loved school and I loved kids. When I wasn’t at school, I would play “school” with my friends and while most of my friends were having sleepovers on Friday nights, I would often babysit kids in my neighborhood. I recall admiring many of my teachers and thinking their jobs looked so fun.
I went into college knowing that I wanted to pursue teaching as a career. In my mind, I imagined myself starting a teaching career, then pausing my career while becoming a stay-at-home mom before returning to teaching once my own kids were in school.
When I was fresh out of the credential program in 2011, I began searching for my first official teaching job. I knew I was drawn to the middle school age. These years can be particularly challenging as pre-teens begin navigating through the tumultuous waters of adolescence. I was definitely up for the challenge. That’s when I found Alpha: Blanca Alvarado Middle School. It was the founding year for Alpha Blanca. I knew this was a school to call home when I learned that the school existed because of the steadfast pursuit of mothers in the San Jose community who desired to have a safe and academically rigorous middle school to send their children. I wanted to be a part of that mission. I began my teaching career as a founding 6th grade teacher with Alpha Blanca and am currently in my 7th year teaching at Alpha. My first group of 6th grade students will be graduating high school at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
In the fall of 2017, my husband and I found out that we were expecting our first son. I found myself facing a crossroads when I was finally at the point where I had initially thought I would pause my teaching career to become a stay at home mom. Honestly, the thought terrified me. I was really enjoying my work as a teacher and the more experienced I became, the more confident I felt in returning year after year. Not only was the thought of taking a break from teaching overwhelming, the thought of having to reconfigure our financial budget to live on one income in the Bay Area was daunting. My husband and I decided that I would continue my teaching career while entering this new phase of motherhood. This decision, while completely different than what I had imagined as a young girl, has been both challenging and rewarding.
Mom Guilt. I held my son for extended amounts of time the evening before my first day back at work and I cried my entire drive to work. I had doubts about my decision to return to work and whether or not putting my son in daycare would somehow ruin our mother-son bond. I could tell that some people supported my choice to be a working mom while others would scrunch up their noses in silent protest. While there are times that I wish I got to spend more time with him each day, the mom guilt has subsided a bit as we’ve gotten into the groove of our new normal. We are doing what we believe is best for our family.
Bringing Work Home. Remember how I mentioned that when I was a young girl it looked like teachers’ jobs were so fun? Ha! While teaching can be a very fun career, what a lot of people don’t see is just how much time teachers put into their work outside of their 8 hour workday. Our work is essentially never “done.” As we check things off of our “To Do” lists, new boxes are consistently being added. We do it all: lesson planning, seating charts, grading, parent communication, emails, countless meetings, etc. I think one of the biggest challenges has been picking my son up from daycare, doing our night time/bed time routine, and then returning to work for at least 1-2 more hours on top of the 8 hour workday. Learning to set healthy boundaries and realistic expectations has been challenging and it’s something I’m still trying to figure out.
Redefining What’s Most Important. Prior to becoming a mom, I put nearly 60-70 hours a week into my work as a teacher. As a teacher and a new mom, I now have two full-time jobs to balance. This means redefining what is most important and learning to prioritize my responsibilities. While being a teacher is important, I have had to learn how to say “no,” to the extra things and be more present and available for my son.
How Being a Mom Has Made Me A Better Teacher
Becoming the Queen of Multitasking. I have learned to have a “10 steps ahead” kind of mindset when it comes to tasks. I have also become really good at looking at available time slots in my day and accomplishing time-based tasks to maximize productivity. With practice, many of my mom and teacher responsibilities have become an auto-pilot mindset. I accomplished this by breaking up my “To Do” list into time based tasks and when I have a pockets of time, I look at my list and use my time accordingly. This has helped with both my teacher and mom related tasks.
Seeing My Students’ Through the Perspective of a Mother. The first time I held my son in my arms I not only felt overwhelming unconditional love, but I felt a tremendous amount of responsibility. When I look at my students, I now have the incredible perspective of seeing each of them through the eyes of a mother. Some of this perspective includes but is not limited to: unconditional love, never giving up, and wanting what is ultimately best for your child. The things I have and want for my own son is what I desire for the students I teach. I do my best to remind myself of this perspective. Just as I entrust my son to be kept safe and to be loved by his day care provider, I am also being entrusted by my students’ families to do the same. This is something I don’t take lightly.
Setting an Example for My Son. Ultimately, when I feel that mom guilt creeping in, I have to remind myself that choosing to be a working mom, although there are sacrifices, also enables me to set an incredible example for my son of what it means to work hard. I have the ability to help shape my son’s perspective on women in the workforce while modeling what it means to sacrifice joyfully.
Top 3 Pieces of Advice for Working Moms
Give Yourself Grace. It’s very easy for working moms to be hard on themselves. The reality is, you’re working two full- time jobs. Try not to be too hard on yourself and take some time for YOU. Go on a walk, listen to a podcast, read a book, take an uninterrupted shower with enough time to shave your legs, drink a full cup of coffee while it’s still hot, or take a nap! Often times I have to remind myself that taking an hour for myself to take care of me is necessary for me to be the best mom and teacher for my kids. When things get overwhelming, just breathe and remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day.
Have Open Communication with Your Colleagues. Before returning to work, I set up a meeting with my managers and colleagues. They openly listened to some of my fears and hopes for returning to work. We came up with a plan that would help me transition into being a working mom. My husband takes my son to daycare while I pick him up. My managers and coworkers help me honor my commitment to picking up my son on time by helping usher me out the door at the end of the day. Be honest with those you work with. Advocate for what you need. In this case, over communication is key. I feel blessed to work with a supportive team who understand that this whole mom/teacher thing takes some getting used to.
Make the Most of Family Time. As a working mom, time with my son is much more limited than it used to be while I was on maternity leave. My husband and I really cherish and look forward to our evenings and weekends as a family. One of the benefits of teaching is Holiday breaks. We do our best to plan strategically for these breaks and pack them full of family fun adventures. This gives us something to look forward to during those long work weeks. We also enjoy creating traditions together. We often walk to breakfast on Saturday’s and take some lazy time just to be present with one another. In this case, it’s not the quantity of time spent together, it’s all about the quality.
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