Wherein I get all snippity-like because if this job is so damn easy then why aren’t YOU* doing it? [*and by “you” I don’t mean you]

Why is it that one disgruntled student can make me doubt everything that I’ve tried to do in a semester?

Then, I found an article on a local newspaper’s website with this reader comment:

Teachers receive good salaries for their positions and then pass the blame on to parents every or financial statistics every time THEY fail their students. I think instead of educators blowing money on studies of students who are in low income families they should be doing studies of their educators. Who would like to bet that students with lower income families receive less of an education from their teachers because the teachers don’t care as much?

The bottomline of any job is performance. If a teacher is not producing a proper education, then they have no one to blame but themselves and they should be immediately removed from the position. Regardless of who the parent is or the parents income level, a proper teacher has as much time and resources as they do with a child that has higher income parents, and a teacher should have no problem educating all of the students at the same level.

Okay, so seriously. There is so much I can say to this… but I don’t really want to get into it, because, you see, I’ll already be up for at least another 2.5-3 hours (4 hours after my kids went to bed) to grade papers. I am pushing to get these graded early, so my students might have an opportunity to do a second draft, even though they had a week to do the assignment in the first place.It’s not that I think that I am that great of a teacher, or that I am trying to toot my own horn here. “Ooh, look at me. I work hard.” This is the gig, and I signed up for it.

I would just like to point out the following… in bulleted format because I really just don’t feel like pulling it all together into one cohesive format.

  • When a student fails a class with a 21% because they’ve only  handed in four assignments out of several dozen, who fails? Keep in mind that as their teacher, I only see this student for 50 minutes per day. But I still try.
  • When a student misses an average of 1/3 of school days to unexcused absences or truancy, who fails? According to school policy, I am no permitted to give credit for missed work on an unexcused or truant absences, so their grade is going to be negatively impacted to some extent regardless of what we do when they ARE there. But I still try.
  • My job, as I see it, is not to make sure that every student succeeds. My job is to make sure that every student has the opportunity to do well in my class. If I, or anyone else, could guarantee that every kid PASSES, well hell’s bells, that would make my job a lot easier.
  • What people often mean by schools failing students is that students get through school without seeming to have some kind of  skill/ability/knowledge that is transferable to life outside of school. In other words, my class should not be a closed entity that has no relevance to the rest of their lives. I agree with that. But my class does not exist to serve purely utilitarian function either. As expert, I should get to have some say in what the proper balance is. If someone disagrees with me, there are number of avenues one can take to address with me, my administrators, or my school-board. But here’s the best idea of all–take an active interest and fill in the gaps you perceive with your own child. Formal education, whether it be public or private, should never be thought of as the only education necessary to make an educated citizen.
  • Not every students’ performance is indicative of what they were taught. Nor does every kid’s grade reflect what they actually know. This actually swings both ways. I have failing students who are freaking brilliant but they just won’t do the work, or they aren’t in school to do the work. Likewise, we all know those students who have great grades, but they don’t seem to have a lick of good, common sense.
  • Some kids have just not bought in, or sadly, have checked out of their educational opportunities.
  • I know that those who aren’t educators will say it is the educators’ jobs to motivate these students. I agree that it is, but when you talk about intangible things like individual motivation to succeed, to learn, to achieve… let alone even to define what those terms success, learning, achievment mean to each individual… well, that’s an impossible expectation to meet. That’s kind of like saying to the fast-food worker that every customer that comes through the drive-thru must been 100% satisfied with the taste, smell and appearance of their burger and their hunger must be 100% satiated for them to be successful at their jobs. It doesn’t matter if the customer has huge appetites, or if they actually hate fast food, or even if they didn’t come to the drive-thru for a burger, but rather a soda–the workers’ success depends on the customers’ 100% satisfaction and sated appetite.
  • And of course, education is not fast food. Education is opportunity. It is a long and complicated endeavor of the body and mind and spirit. It is a life-long process that cannot be quantified by any instrument or test. It just can’t. It never well. The best way to determine whether or not a student has learned is to ask the student him/herself. Grades, pass, and fail have very little to do with learning. There have been scads of books written and studies conducted dealing with this exact point.
  • I try my best to motivate my students. Some are motivated by grades, some are motivated by reward, some are motivated by the joy of learning, and some are motivated by doing something “out of the ordinary.” I try my best to motivate on each of these levels, but let me tell you that it is mighty difficult to keep that up, day in and day out, nine months out of the year… especially when I’m competing with boyfriends, girlfriends, a part-time job, a car, or the mere fact that it is a Friday… if I’m lucky. Often times I’m competing with a parent’s unemployment, a parent’s drinking/drug problem, a student’s drinking/drug problem, an over/under medicated student, physical/emotional/mental abuse, or a terminally ill family member.
  • So, do I fail my students. Yes. I do. I fail them in that I do not convince every single one of them to seize every single opportunity for learning that is presented to them every single day. Some of them, I can’t even motivate to hang on for a single quarter out of the year. It hurts my heart to admit that, but it is true. Despite the fact that I teach critical reading skills and writing, I still have students who see no point in my class whatsoever, because they don’t read books and they hate to write. It makes me very sad when I can’t reach through their short-sightedness and convince them that it is their life and their ability and their opportunity that is at stake here. Some of them never, ever imagine their lives anything beyond what they already know. And by age 15, most of them do have the skills to negotiate that world.So yes, sometimes I do fail.
  • But, I will be damned if someone is going to accuse me of not caring about them and their progress. All of them. It stings when a student belittles my class because he or she did not get the grade that he or she wanted. It’s insulting to be told that what I do doesn’t matter in the “real world.”
  • So, about failing students? Trust me when I tell you that I grieve it enough on my own. I question my own methods and decisions and the fairness of my assessments and the worth of my lessons enough. I love my job. And I love my students. And I don’t think that I am an extraordinarily, special teacher. I think that there are a lot of out there who would love to reach those failing students.

Okay, I’m out of “thoughts” for the moment.

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One thought on “Wherein I get all snippity-like because if this job is so damn easy then why aren’t YOU* doing it? [*and by “you” I don’t mean you]

  1. Brilliantly stated. The old addage “Walk a Mile in my Shoes” seems to apply here. Thanks for speaking for those of us who serve in schools and do the job everyday, whether anyone wants the product or not.

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