aha moment, being a teacher, being me, students

What Having Twins Taught Me About Teaching

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At 8 PM you can finally feel it; the silence seems to creep down the stairs until my husband and I finally breathe a little easier, knowing that another crazy day has been lived.  That another day with four kids under the age of six has successfully been traversed through fits and fights, hugs and laughter.  Having children was one of the best decisions we ever made.

Yet, when we made that decision we didn’t hope for twins.  (Well, to be perfectly honest, I always thought it would be sooo cool because twins were always so cute).  Yet, when we had our first baby, Theadora, and felt the crushing responsibility of caring for a single little one, I was so grateful that we only had the one because how would you ever take care of two at the same time? How could you ever sleep?  How could you ever shower?  Or eat?  Or get anywhere on time?  And how could you ever leave the house with your sanity intact?  Having that first kid was hard.   And so we giggled a bit when my friend had twins, was exhausted when we babysat them and felt so thankful that we just had the one because having twins was nuts.  Who would ever wish for twins?!?  Which of course meant that when I finally had a viable pregnancy again, the universe laughed at our foolishness and gave us the gift of twins.  Oh the irony…

Yet, the universe must have known what we needed because having twins was a gift.  Becoming a parent of twins was the universe’s way of teaching me to chill out.  To stop striving for perfection.  To stop working all of the time.  To laugh at the crazy.  To hug and hug and hug even when the hands are sticky and the diapers are smelly.  In fact, becoming the mother of twins didn’t just mean I became a better parent, but it also helped me become a better teacher.

You see, when you have twins and you feed them the same food, you play with them in the same way, you challenge them in the same way, you start to notice something.  You start to notice that even though you put them to bed at the same time, read them the same book, they sleep the same amount, and you speak to them the same way.   Even though you do pretty much everything the same, they don’t seem to care; they learn to crawl at different times.  They learn to walk four months apart.  One learns to speak three months before the other.  One learns to ride her bike two months later.  One has a speech impediment, the other does not.  One loves sports, the other loves to build.   They don’t develop the same way, even though they grow up with you doing the same thing.  You realize what you thought you knew all along; kids learn at different rates.  Kids develop differently, even if they share the same family, same learning environment, even the same birth-date.  The twins don’t care that they share the same environment and the same experience; they are taking the time they want and need to develop.

As a teacher, this is something I sometimes forget.  I forget that even though my students are all born in the same year’s span, they do not all have the same skills.  That even though my students have followed the same sequential learning progression, they do not have the same knowledge.  That even though they have been on the same path as so many other students, they may have significant differences.  And it is not because they are lazy or that their parents didn’t provide whatever they needed.  It is not because they don’t like to be challenged, or aren’t’ as smart, or just don’t try.  We can’t even point a finger at their old teachers for perhaps not being rigorous enough, they may just be developing at a different rate.  They may just be at a different part of their journey.  And that’s ok.

What our twins, Ida and Oskar, taught us is that we have to remember that all kids learn differently.  That age is nothing but a number.  That even providing two kids with the very same environment does not mean that their outcome will be the same.  That there is nothing wrong with taking a longer time to get a skill, what matters is getting it.  That’s what we can’t forget as teachers.  That even though we are teaching all of the students the same lesson, they are on different parts of their journey and some will not be ready for what we are teaching them.  Our job is then to discover what they do need and teach them where they are.

Ida and Oskar taught us to laugh a little more.  To not sweat the small things.  To look back at our first 3 1/2 years with just one amazing kid and realize how easy we had it.  Every day, when the yelling starts and the feet start to run, we have learned to run with them, to harness their energy, and to revel in the life we have.  And what a life it is indeed.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

8 thoughts on “What Having Twins Taught Me About Teaching”

  1. Pernille – I have thought the same thing so many times (yet unable to express like you have). This is one of my favourite posts you have written as it relates to me like no other. Being parents of twins is so challenging at times but the beauty of that closeness… that friendship… and all the uniqueness of each child makes me sit back and smile on so many occasions. Thanks for sharing… simply beautiful.

  2. I love how you can share things from your professional life, and your personal life, in such a way as to provide meaningful take-aways for all of us.
    Even as the teaching year is winding down, we need to recognize that some of our students aren’t “there” yet, though no fault of theirs and that we ought to provide opportunities for re-checking and re-dos wherever possible!
    Happy spring to you and yours!

  3. Thanks for this Pernille! Nice to hear someone who understands! My children give me so much background understanding I just never had before. Our twins and then triplets were both a Godsent, …and at times I think he’s laughing at us, just a little! Keep laughing too!

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