Building the Airplane while Flying

By Michelle Beers


I have been an educator for roughly 15 years, and I have been a parent of a child with special needs for six of those years. So, as a veteran in both arenas, I have learned the ultimate secret to how to handle juggling both like a master.


Just kidding. There’s no such thing.


Some days, you feel like you have it all figured out, and some days you are in tears wondering what you did wrong. One, of my favorite sayings is, “Sometimes I feel like I’m building the airplane while flying.”  I’m talking about both teaching and parenting now. So, if this is you, you’re SO normal.

Child Painting Model Airplane

One day my co-teacher was out of the classroom training teachers who are new to our district how to be as awesome as she is. We have a great fourth grade class this year. I am the General Education teacher, and she is the Special Education teacher that ensures our kids with special considerations receive their necessary instructional and behavioral support. We both love and teach all of the children in our classroom and have a pretty darn good partnership. We are just better educators together. When she was out, let me tell you, she was MISSED. Both the children and I were not on our game today. I just felt myself feeling overwhelmed about more, less patient than I wanted to be and there were a couple of lessons that just felt like a flop.


The substitute who was in for her today was great! She met with groups, helped clarify during whole group lessons, had a handle on expectations and classroom management and was fun to talk to. That’s a big deal in the world of substitutes. In my head, at the end of the day, after trying and failing to squeeze more social studies content in, I said to myself this poor lady will probably never fill in for this class with me again! I was having a VERY Monday-ish Tuesday and I was OVER IT!

Image by Andre Hunter

And that my friends, is also exactly how parenting can feel. AM I RIGHT? You know what I am talking about. On your average days, your kids can exhaust you, embarrass you and frustrate you. You find yourself so disappointed with yourself and wishing you were more - more patient, more fun, more structured, more organized, more easy going, tidier and a better cook. I’m 57 percent of any of those things on my very best day so I know how it feels. But I also know how many other parents have looked at me and thought I really knew what I was doing. And likewise, how many parents I have observed and complimented and tried to use as a model for my own parenting style, and the truth is we are all the best!


My son is my WORLD - my entire unexpectedly favorite human in the universe. And he has a lot of needs. He was born with a mild physical disability and when he was very little, our world and our expectations of the future changed drastically. He later received a diagnosis of ASD and ADHD on top of his physical developmental issue. There are therapies, medications and routines in our daily lives that have become necessary to function. Some days I feel so overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, that I miss all the good things I am as his mom.


I started thinking about the negative self-talk I give myself as a parent  I remember when I used to read, sing and pray with him for an hour or more every single night and felt like a failure if I missed a song, a story or a prayer because a better mom would have found the right supplements so that his hyperactivity and impulsivity wouldn’t be replaced by compulsivity, would make sure he only has access to educational programming and not feed her child a quesadilla and street corn for dinner just because she didn’t plan ahead. It goes on like this all the time and sometimes I let it get to me and sometimes I recognize that my self-talk is a jerk.


Nobody feels like they are doing well because we focus on the parts that could use some improvement. But in the big picture, as teachers and parents, if we are trying to do right by our kids and giving it our all, we are AMAZING and don’t you forget that!

Image by Sydney Sims
Image by Sai De Silva