Mrs. Jamaica Kirby does it all! As a 4th year Pre-K teacher and a mother to a boy and a girl, she’s constantly juggling the daily requirements of both her mama and teacher life. In an effort to share the highs (and sometimes lows) of her teaching and motherhood journey with others, she created @ThatMamaTeacherLife on social media.
Inspired by Ms. Jamaica (as her Pre-K students call her), and everything she does on a daily basis both inside and outside of the classroom, we reached out to see if she’d be willing to share her story as an everyday hero with us and our Purely Inspired family. As you can imagine, we were thrilled when she said yes!
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Ms. Jamaica about what inspired her to become a teacher, the most important lesson she has learned from juggling her mama and teacher life, and how she’s able to focus on nutrition and wellness through simple routines.
Q: First off, thank you so much for everything you do each and every day. While we’ll never fully understand what it’s like to live a day in your shoes as a Pre-K teacher and a mama to two beautiful children, we love seeing your journey on social media and appreciate you sharing it with all of us.
Was there a specific moment in your life when you realized that you wanted to become a teacher? Or was there someone who inspired you to become a teacher?
A: “I honestly feel like I grew up always knowing that I would be a teacher. I grew up asking my elementary school teachers if I could take home the extra workbooks in our classroom over the summer just so I could play ‘teacher’ at home! I have always loved the idea of working with kids and making a difference in their lives!
As for the person who inspired me to be a teacher, it has to be my 5th grade teacher Ms. Humphrey’s! I grew up a very quiet child, and she was the first teacher that brought out my full potential and believed in me, which in turn made me believe in myself! She was also my first teacher that looked like me. This made me see that, ‘Wow! I can do this one day!’”
Q: What’s one thing about teaching that you didn’t realize until you became a teacher yourself?
A: “That it is not all rainbows and sunshine… When I became a teacher, I thought it would just be a happy environment where I get to go teach kids, play with them, and make a positive impact in their lives. While this is all true, so much more goes into the preparation for that. It’s paperwork, classroom management strategies, the stress of state evaluations, and so much more! Teachers do so much behind the scenes!”
Q: During the week, what is your schedule like? What time do you wake up and how do you get your kids ready for the day?
A: “My day starts at 5 a.m. with my husband every morning. I get up and make his coffee and breakfast to get him ready for work! After, I make my cup of coffee and work on my computer until my kids wake up around 7 a.m. Once my kids are up, my son and I make breakfast together while my daughter runs around in her walker.
Around 7:30 a.m. we all sit down and eat breakfast together while video calling my husband for him to tell the kids good morning. We are done eating around 8, then I get everyone dressed and we go on a walk at our local duck park! This is the part that I’m going to miss the most when I return to the classroom! We usually spend around an hour at the duck park, then we head home.
So, now it’s around 9:30 a.m., and we are home. My son usually goes to play in his room while I get my daughter down for a nap. She usually naps from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. During this time, DJ and I spend time together either playing with his toys or practicing his motor skills. Then I make lunch.
This is the funny part… My daughter wakes up at 11 a.m., and my son goes to sleep around 11:30 a.m. for his nap! So, I just switch out one for the other! (Laughing) So, during my sons’ nap from about 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., I work on my daughter playing independently, feed her, and then I get some work done for social media and teacher life!
Once my son wakes up, I usually take the kids outside to play for about an hour. Then we go in, clean up, and prepare for daddy to get home around 3:30!”
Q: Wow! That’s some busy summer schedule! Have you created any simple or easy routines to help you and your family focus on nutrition and wellness?
A: “Make breakfast every single day! This has helped my family so much. I usually make my son and I scrambled eggs every morning, and I sneak in spinach that he never even notices. And now with the gift from you all, I make my husband and myself a protein smoothie every morning to start our day! We also have a stir-fry night every week so that we are sure we are getting a full meal of veggies every week.”
Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far from having to juggle both your mama and teacher life?
A: “Using my time wisely. I don’t have the time anymore to sit and binge a show or scroll on my phone. I have to keep a mental schedule stating this is mama time and this is teacher/social media time. Some days I’m able to be super active with creating teacher resources and present on a teacher social media, and sometimes I’m not.
The main lesson I learned is that some teacher things can wait, but my kids growing up is not going to wait. During the school year, I usually stay after contract hours to just get things done and not bring work home, but that will take away time with my son and daughter. So, my biggest lesson is to use your time wisely! It’s hard in the beginning, but once you get it down, your life runs so much smoother.”
Q: What’s one thing that you wish people knew or understood more about teachers?
A: “We do A LOT! It’s so much stress and work that goes into teaching. We display all the fun things, but we don’t show the paperwork, behaviors, lesson preparations, and having to learn how to positively communicate with around 30 parents/guardians every year! It’s hard.
I begin my preparation for the new school year in May when the previous school year ends. I like for everything to be in place and run seamlessly so that when the school year starts, I’m not worried about those things and I can focus on building relationships with my students and families. I just want people to know that everything a teacher does is thoughtfully planned out.”
Q: As a teacher, how often are you buying educational materials and classroom supplies for your students? Knowing that you have your own family to support, as well, is that decision even more difficult to make?
A: “Too much… That is honestly the biggest downfall of being a teacher. We already have very small salaries, and then we spend half of it on our classroom and students. Any extra supplies needed comes out of our pocket, any extra learning tools come out of our pocket, any treasure box items for positive behaviors comes out of our pocket, party material come out of our pocket, classroom transformations come out of our pocket, flexible seating/furniture come out of our pocket, and these are just the things off the top of my head. Now that I have two kids, I have to be so much smarter with my spending.
So, it’s hard when you need snacks for snack time or maybe just simple treats for a treasure box, but you just finished paying bills and can’t afford it. This is why positive parent engagement is so important. Having parents that are willing to donate money to your classroom and provide you with those snacks, and money for items in your classroom makes all the difference. I honestly could not run my classroom without the help of my parents every school year.”
Q: What’s the best way that people or even brands like Purely Inspired can support you and your students?
A: “I have no idea why this question is so hard, but it is. I am a person that flourishes just off of support mentally. Simply telling me that you’re doing great, and everything will be okay is the perfect support for me.
While this support is needed, it’s also important to just ask, ‘What do you need help with?’ or ‘How is this going?’ This then gives me an opportunity to open up about what’s going right, what’s going wrong, or what’s lacking in my classroom, etc. So, just being present and willing to listen.”