Teachers with children at RBHS have diverse experiences

Teachers+with+children+at+RBHS+have+diverse+experiences

Atreyo Ghosh

Teacher Susan Trice helps her daughter, Sienna Trice, study in the media center. Susan and Sienna shared a bond and a classroom last year when Sienna was in Susan’s chemistry class. Photo by Maddy Jones

On a regular school day morning, most students say a sleepy goodbye to their parents before leaving for seven arduous hours of learning, while other students instead say hello to seven hours of learning in the vicinity of their parents.

Instead of being free from prying eyes, these students see their parents throughout the day, sometimes even in an actual class. Sophomore Mateo Danner has his mother, Carla Danner, for Spanish 3. He doesn’t see the class much differently from his other classes. Mateo Danner said that there was not much to complain about with being in his mom’s class.

Carla Danner had to make the choice on whether or not to have her son as her student.  Danner brought Mateo Danner to the Columbia Public Schools district his 6th grade year, instead of having him go to school in Blackwater, MO, which is 45 minutes away from Columbia. She said she wanted Mateo Danner to go to RBHS because she felt it was one of the best schools in the state. This year, because Mateo Danner’s information was originally sent to Hickman High School instead of RBHS, he could only take classes that had room for extra students. If he was going to take the Spanish class he wanted to, Carla Danner would have to take him on as a student. The class has not been any different, academically speaking, Carla Danner said.

“I just do whatever is planned,” Carla Danner said. “He participates just like any other student. Everybody takes a turn. We go over homework [and] do activities; he’s just one more of the classroom.”

It did, however, take Carla Danner some time at the beginning of the year to get used to having her son in her class and to hear, “Mom,” at school. Because of possible rumors of favoritism that come along with teaching your own child, she is also harsher on Mateo Danner in terms of behavior, although a number of reasons come into play.

“I mean you can’t tell your kid, ‘Don’t call me Mom,’” Carla Danner said. But at the same time, “You expect more from your kid, and you’re on top of it and you’re trying to be a little more on their case because you don’t want to see that other kids think, ‘Oh, it’s her kid, she doesn’t do anything about it.’”

RBHS has other teachers who, like Carla Danner, have or have had their own students in class. Last year, chemistry teacher Susan Trice also dealt with the issue of favoritism when she had senior Sienna Trice, her daughter, as a student by being tougher on Sienna Trice than with other students. Susan Trice even gave Sienna Trice an L.O.P. early last school year for having her phone out in class, although she was not using it. By the end of the year, Susan Trice eased up and was not as concerned about people thinking she favored Sienna Trice.

“At first, [the class] was good, but then we started butting heads. I was really critical of her, and I always told her, ‘I didn’t like that activity, I didn’t like that test. You need to change this about it.’ It never hurt our relationship, we kind of fought more; that’s the year that we really clicked and became closer,” Sienna Trice said. “I really got to get to know her, and we just became a lot closer through that, even though we were bickering sometimes in class…”

Susan Trice and Sienna Trice grew closer because of having class together. Originally, Sienna Trice was a little too critical of how Susan Trice taught for her mother’s  liking. Because Sienna Trice was in her class, she was more conscious of what she said and had to learn to take it in her stead if Sienna Trice rolled her eyes or gave a dirty look while she was teaching. Eventually, Susan Trice adjusted to the new dynamic and came to welcome the feedback, which she feels has improved her teaching.

“I think I hear more and understand more what the students’ perspectives are, and what they’re actually experiencing around the school and the classrooms,” Susan Trice said. “I continually ask [Sienna Trice] for her input about lessons and ideas in the classroom because she was giving them to me when she was my student, and they were good ideas, so I continue to ask her, ‘What do you think about this and that?’”

Susan Trice and Sienna Trice both participate in Key Club as well, like how band teacher and director Steve Mathews has his children in the band program, along with in his classroom. He has two children currently at RBHS, sophomore Kerri Mathews and senior Brian Mathews, who both participate in band. Steve Mathews said he had no challenges with having his children as students, and he does not show any special eye toward them in class and treats them completely like all of the other students.

“We get along well at home and I … treat them like they’re any other student. I think the challenge would have been if my kids are problems,” Steve Mathews said, “like troublemakers or anything like that. That may be a bit of a problem because am I going to favor them, or am I going to look over problems?”

Steve Mathews was not new to the situation: he had his oldest son, RBHS alumnus Jason Mathews, in band beforehand. As a result, Brian Mathews finds few differences in band from his other classes. He does however see an advantage to having his dad at school. Brian Mathews can come to Steve Mathews during school if anything needs signing or in case of emergencies. Initially however, after coming from West Junior High School, Brian Mathews felt there was more pressure on him at RBHS because of his dad’s job, but it turned out to not be a concern.

“He tries to treat me as a student here at a Rock Bridge and treat me like a son at home,” Brian Mathews said. “He tries to keep that difference between personal life and public life.”

Because of different familial relationships, what parents and students discuss at home when they share a class varies from pair to pair. Instead of keeping the two lives separate like Steve Mathews, Susan Trice integrates them together. Susan and Sienna Trice talked last year about their chemistry class and now about everything from general school life. They talk about events going on at RBHS such as assemblies, other notable happenings and how to improve chemistry class. Sienna’s younger sister Helen Trice, then an 8th grader, enjoyed listening to her sister and mother and tried to get in on the conversations. Helen Trice now takes some classes at RBHS as a freshman. Because Susan Trice has two of her kids at RBHS, she sees interactions between her daughters that other parents would miss.

The first day  Helen came to RBHS, “I was worried about her as a ninthgrader coming over to the big school,” Susan Trice said. “I was racing down to the bus where she was getting off from West, and making sure she was [getting] to Latin class okay because she doesn’t know the building and I couldn’t find her… So I look down the hall, and there’s Sienna and Helen and Sienna had her arm around her and she was walking [Helen] down to the hallway.”

How kids and parents interact in a school setting is unique on a case-by-case basis. The interactions can sometimes be, as Susan Trice saw with Helen and Sienna Trice, cherished moments. While teachers have to keep in mind the issue of favoritism, there are little other similarities between families. Parents and children have different relationships, so it is natural that the experiences differ. Because of the shared experience of being in the same classroom, Susan and Sienna Trice have grown closer together.

“If I ever need to see her or need help with anything, need her advice, she’s right there, she’s practically my best friend. If I ever am upset about anything going on during the day, relationship issues, friend issues, annoyed by someone, I can just go to her and vent and we’ll just vent about our lives together,” Sienna Trice said. “I don’t think I would have enjoyed high school as much if my mom wasn’t here. It just strengthened our relationship, and I wouldn’t be the same without her.”

By Atreyo Ghosh