Parents in the classroom

Posted: December 5, 2011

Lessons from parents at home and at school

A look inside what it’s like to be a teacher’s kid

by Katie Pope, Talon staff writer

The whole school watched as junior Katie Elliott stepped up onto the stage during chapel and sat on the speaker’s lap. The Bible teacher who was giving the message of the day held his arm around her, but what the students didn’t know was that he was shaking and looked like he might tear up any moment as he led the students and teachers in singing “Happy Birthday.”

Kate Elliott gets the special treatment because her dad, David Elliott, is a sacred studies teacher at Minnehaha.

Seven students attending Minnehaha this year have a parent teaching classes at North Campus. The presence of a parent at school every day can bring fun, awkward and embarrassing times.

While the stereotypical teenager doesn’t want to spend time with their mom or dad, many of the Minnehaha students who spend all day in the same building as their parents have positive things to say about their experiences.

“There’s not that much to dislike,” said sophomore Sam Jirele, who’s mother, Elizabeth Van Pilsum, teaches his AP World History class. “I like that I can get a lot of homework help.”

However, Jirele wasn’t too excited about it before school started.

“I was nervous and thought I wouldn’t like it at all, but it’s fine now,” Jirele said.

Kate Elliott took her father’s Life of Christ class as a sophomore  and sometimes sits in on his Uniqueness of Christianity class during her free hour,

“I like listening to his stories, because some stories he says to the class I don’t know.”  Elliot said.

Freshman Megan Thurow has her dad, Josh Thurow, as her gym and health teacher.

Her first ever high-school class was with her dad,” Josh Thurow said, “so that was kind of fun.”

Thurow enjoys being able to spend time with his daughter that he wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise.

“I’m so busy with all my coaching and reffing stuff outside of school,” he said, “we don’t spend a whole lot of time at home, but I’m guaranteed that I’ve got 80 minutes with her every day.”

Funny things are bound to happen in the classroom at some point.

“One time we were doing a workbook,” Megan Thurow said, “and I didn’t know how to spell physical. I spelled it with an ‘f’, and he was like, ‘that’s because you’re fat with an ‘f’! People just thought it was hilarious.”

Josh Thurow had an explanation.

“I probably joke with her a little more than the average student, and in front of her friends, but it’s all just good-spirited stuff.” Josh Thurow said.

Kate Elliot remembers her on-stage birthday song as her most embarrassing memory that is a result of being a teacher’s daughter.

“He had me sit on his lap, and that was embarrassing,” Elliot said. “He called me up on stage and he was shaking, and I don’t know if the crowd could see, but his eyes looked like they were about to well over with tears. He still to this day thinks that I wasn’t embarrassed, but it was really embarrassing.”

Elizabeth Van Pilsum enjoys a different aspect of teaching her child.

“I’ve actually gained a new found respect for how much work the kids put in,” she said. “I’ve taught the class for seven years and for the first time I can see just how much time it takes to do the work that I assign, because he’s in my house doing it.”

Although these people say that having one of their parents as a teacher is good most of the time, there are some things that aren’t so great.

“What I don’t like,” said Van Pilsum, “is that sometimes I do hold back or I don’t say things that I would normally say just because I know that he’d be thinking, ‘Mom, that’s’ not funny!'”

Students also mentioned that it is strange having a parent around when they’re with friends.

“Some of the time it’s a little weird, because me and my friends talk about things and it’s weird to have him around listening to us,” Megan Thurow explained.

“Sometimes I’ll be hanging out with my friends, and he’ll tell them that they need to pull up their shirt,” Kate Elliot said, “and I’ll be like, ‘I’m sorry, that’s my dad!'”

While some students may think that a teacher’s child is automatically going to be good at the subject they teach, the fact that it is their own parent grading them can actually be a challenge.

“He holds me to a higher standard than everyone else,” said Megan Thurow.

Van Pilsum, explaining how she grades Jirele’s homework, said, “I look at his more closely, and sometimes I expect more out of him.”

Students with parents who teach have the advantage of extra homework help. However, most teachers watch how much help they give their kids.

“She might clarify some things,” said Jirele, “but she limits the amount of help that I’ll get from her.”

“I probably won’t help her [Megan Thurow] more than I would another student because I don’t think that’s fair,” said Josh Thurow.

“I got zero help,” said Kate Elliott. “The only thing I did was, he’d be correcting tests and so I’d ask, ‘How’d I do?’ and he’d say, ‘Well, I can’t tell you because I’m your teacher!'”

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