Gone Fishing: Not An Option for Teachers (or parents)


Teaching (and parenting) is like fishing.

It’s an adage shared with me some time ago.

Fishing is an act of patience. I know, you’ve heard this one.

This is of course lost on some, although when I walk into a Bass Pro Outfitters, it seems that quite a few people are sold on this premise. I lump myself into the group of understanding the patience part, well maybe. I do not however lump myself into the group of Bass Pro shoppers – although the smoked Wahoo did is excellent at their restaurant.

Apparently you have to wait out the fish. I know there is more to this as my brother in law has informed me. I have gleaned a bit from watching him expertly navigate the boat and affix various lures to the end of various lines. He has shared with me more than once, “it’s fishin’ after all, not catchin’.”

And there is the calming appeal of waiting out the fish. I like the nature part – calm seas, birds flying by, choppy seas, wind, sun, misty mornings, mosquitos – well not so much.

Nor, I admit to you, will I remain calm or consider the experience appealing should a snake swim in my direction. (Enter screaming like a little person here.)

I digress.

When I watch the experts fish, especially fishing with a nicely tied fly, there is quite a bit of skill involved. I watch as they cast perfectly, letting out the line, twitching the fly as it sits on top of the water to make it jump in realistic fashion, and of course reeling it all in to begin the process over.

Like parenting.

There are times we keep the line taut. When we hold our children close. We are especially good at this in the beginning – when we have no clue what we’re doing. Our newborn child is completely dependent upon us, and we are in shock – especially if it’s the first child. As they get older, our children would probably perceive this closeness as “being in their business.”

Then there are times when we let out the line. This occurs as our trust in them develops over time and we’ve had repeated success. Initially we rely on hope. Hope that it will be fine – that our child will get to the neighbor’s safely, that the first day of school will end in smiles.

Then there is a need to reel it all in quickly. When knees are skinned, fish hooks are about to enter an eyeball, when electronics have taken precedence over all else, or like the time my son was fascinated by the hot grill. He was the tender age of 1 and had stood and begun walking for the first time toward what must have seemed to be the best toy ever. This is a good time to reel back independence without hesitation.

The point is that good parenting requires different degrees of letting out, and reeling in, the proverbial line.

Teaching is not much different.

We often begin at the beginning of the year with the line taut and hesitantly let out the line as we learn each student’s capabilities and character.

This takes time. The kind of time that annoys fidgeting students.

For some teachers, they never allow the freedom of their students to occur by pulling back on the structure. For others, structure doesn’t exist at all.

Both are ineffective. Both in the classroom and at home.

It’s a fine balance.

One made even more, uh… interesting, when coupled with an environment in which one has to oversee 20 some, 25 plus, or maybe even 30 some students in a classroom. For elementary teachers that may involve doing so over the course of an entire day.

So there are days in which we are wildly successful, perhaps even to our own surprise, and then days in which we reflect back and feel as if we’ve no doubt failed.

Just like parenting.

But if we don’t allow our children to see what they can do to be successful on their own, we in fact don’t trust them to grow independently of us.

If we don’t outline what should, should not, can and cannot happen in our homes then we do an equal disservice to their development – there has to be boundaries – just like in our communities outside the home and school.

Learning the rules of successful behavior is an important as learning math facts and how to to read a book.

What are your proven methods? I would love to hear your thoughts. As a teacher, or a parent, or both, what’s your technique in providing just the right of guidance?

2 thoughts on “Gone Fishing: Not An Option for Teachers (or parents)”

  1. Thanks for this! I truly enjoyed the analogy. As far as my proven method? I can’t say that I have a “proven” method. With six kids (the oldest turning 16 in a couple of weeks), my wife and I are still doing our best to parent, to let out the line and reel it in as needed.
    Neither parenting nor teaching is easy. In fact, I would say those are the two toughest jobs ever! Love to think about here. Thanks for the mental workout!

    1. Thanks John. I’m definitely still learning how to “fish”. It’s tough to be patient and let it happen. With more experience, perhaps I’ll understand how to be both a better teacher and parent – definitely a work in process.

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