Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dear Teachers,

I have great respect for teachers. They have many challenges to face day to day while instructing and caring for our children. They need to attempt to accommodate the needs of a several unique learners and provide a foundation of knowledge that these students will continue to use to some extent for the rest of their lives.
However, not all teachers are amazing and wonderful. Not all teachers care about the success or failure of their students. Not all teachers even comprehend the importance of a child's mental health with respect to learning.
I understand that you are not a group of psychologists, but in order to teach a child you should have some deep understanding of children. If you can't deal with small kids, don't teach in elementary schools. If you get tired of moody teenagers, don't teach them. You make the choice where you want to go, not the kids.
Frankly, if you have taught so long that you are jaded, quit. Allow teachers with a passion for sharing a love of learning to teach. If you don't really genuinely love children and everything that makes us who we become as adults, don't teach.
There is the saying that 'those who can't, teach' and I hate that saying. Some teachers project their own shortfalls into their lessons. Some recall such a rosy experience in primary and secondary school and don't actually understand the kids who have troubles during school years. As an adult, I have had very few conversations with people that actually enjoyed school entirely. Even those who did like school tend to have some period that they remember with sadness or regret.
I also understand that you have a curriculum to follow. You can not randomly choose what you teach our children, you must abide by laws. And those laws are becoming increasingly influenced by major corporations. I am frightened of the future of education. Legally required education that is formed by politics and businesses? Yikes. What kind of world are we creating?
So, you take your curriculum and you teach it in more than one way, that will appeal and make sense to a broader range of students. You must teach them to love learning, not to love your subject matter.
For example, my son has never enjoyed language arts (English). He carried a C average, doing just enough to scrape by from year to year. In grade seven, he encountered a teacher who actually found compelling ways to teach her literature. He has earned A's on many assignments with her. She is engaging, she is passionate and she is fun. She uses books and videos, and she encourages her students to find the parts that speak to them. She doesn't dictate subject matter for writing assignments. She gives a style and gives the class the chance to include their own interests. She is receptive to their input.
Another teacher follows the curriculum more closely, but has very clearly defined expectations. There are consequences for those who do not do their homework and her consequences NEVER change. There is no inequality in her classroom. It is easy to fit within these boundaries. Every child has the same rules and expectations, even in the cases where children have individual program plans in place.
Just today, I was confronted by statements or positions that disturb me greatly.
First is the teacher who says "he works below the level he is capable of and at this stage, he should not have to be reminded." At what age is it, exactly, that we suddenly become innately aware of what we are supposed to do? If my child meets the requirements, and is attaining A's in almost all of his classes, what is there to indicate that he should be doing more? Especially if you don't encourage more? How is a child, who gets A's on report cards, going to feel if you continually tell them they can do better? What is better? And then these same teachers wonder why they have some students struggling through perfectionist issues. Well, if an A isn't good enough, nothing will ever be.
Another, is a teacher who simply doesn't care if a student does any of his work or not. Today, I heard "well, he pushes me a bit on major assignments, but otherwise he never even notices what I'm doing." There are many problems in this classroom. We have a teacher who doesn't want to waste time on confrontation, or even risk a confrontation, so he doesn't push anyone. He only pushes on the assignments that affect the report card and it is increasingly becoming obvious to me that the report card grades are meaningless. They are only provided for the teacher to prove he can 'do his job.' And he is failing in my opinion. The students have no respect for the teacher, because the teacher doesn't have a backbone. He also doesn't follow up with parents. And if I contact him, he doesn't want to take the time to provide me with assignment details so that I can get my child to work on them at home.
In this day and age, we have so many technological ways to encourage and support our kids in their education. I get that some parents are not interested and do not take the time to communicate with teachers. But those of us who DO, should be taken seriously. And if the resources are there to stay in better communication with parents online, use them. As a university student, almost all of my class resources are easily available and even if I miss a class, I can get all the information I need. Many schools are striving to use online portals, but they are wasted efforts if teachers don't use them.
I am so frustrated and angry. Teaching should be a highly respectable profession. I agree that good teachers are not paid what they are worth, but I very much feel that many teachers are overpaid. I believe that education degrees are a little too simplified in an age of increasing inclusion. School boards are pushing all-inclusive access for students, but do not pay enough to compensate for the additional education that our teachers need in order to serve this wider range of children.
And of course, I hardly believe that the socialization we gain in school is anywhere near as important as society makes it out to be. We are perfectly capable of being "socialized" without being forced to endure hours and hours of institutionalized education. Without being subjected to peer pressures, abuse, bullies, drug addicts. And poor quality teachers.
With my three children, I can honestly say that there have been only 6 or 7 teachers who stand out or have made a difference for my kids. I have worked with (since I am a partner in my kid's educations) about 25  different teachers. I have also seen the difference in some teachers who have taught more than one of my children. Some kids are easier, built better for the public school environment. But one teacher can fail or succeed in many ways. One teacher can overlook or forget about the easy student, who then slips because no one cares. One teacher can misunderstand the special needs of another student. One teacher can see a label, where other teachers see a person.
Every single child matters. Every day.
So teachers, before you begin to hate me for judging you, remind yourself why you decided to teach. Be your best self, and care for all students in the best way you can. You wonderful teachers are cherished, but you are growing hard to find. Ignite your passion again, or consider changing your career. It is okay to change our minds. Stop before you become jaded. You are a huge part of our collective future.
Make a difference.

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