This morning I read a great editorial on what it takes to be a good teacher. It reminded me of an article on teaching I posted a couple of years back. I went back and re read it and think it bears repeating so here it is!
1/23/2012 “Good Teachers Teach All Students”
Disappointment comes in many forms. I have to tell you, I was very disappointed today when a teacher I’ve known for years and hold in high esteem as one of the good ones, proved otherwise. It was such a let down to learn that this teacher whose has an incredible teaching style and whose praises I’ve sung on many occasions to administrators and parents alike, harbors certain feelings of animosity and cynicism towards her students. Oh, not all of them mind you, just a select few, you know, the bad ones. Still she is an excellent teacher, who knows her subject well and keeps abreast of all the latest teaching techniques and strategies, but unfortunately has lost connection with her audience and her reason for entering the teaching profession.
I placed a new student in this teacher’s class last Friday and today I heard about it. She was not happy. You see, this student just transferred in and OMG, he has a history, a bad one! She’s had him in her class less than one hour but, because of his potential to be disruptive and what he said to a teacher in anger at another school, makes him a student non grata. She wanted him gone now!
Hello! This is public school! We can not pick and choose our students. We must take in those students who live within our attendance boundaries and teach them all equally to the best of our ability. That’s our job! If you’re not up to the challenge, then get the hell out! And if by chance a student is transferred to us from our sister high school for disciplinary reasons as part of an intervention plan we must accept that student regardless of his past offenses and give him every opportunity to succeed on our campus. As long as we are made aware of why the student is being transferred and he doesn’t present a danger to us, teaching him is our legal obligation. I’m sorry, but when a teacher passes judgement on a student after hearing or reading about their discipline history and flat out says they do not want the student in their class, well that’s just plain wrong!
Apparently these particular teachers never made a bad decision or done anything wrong when they were in high school. Apparently they’ve never needed a second chance. How sad for them because making mistakes is all part of the trip, the life trip. If we never made a mistake how would anyone of us ever learn the valuable lessons that accompany every error of judgement we’ve ever made? How would we ever better ourselves? Come on, everybody makes mistakes, but I guess not everyone owns up to making them.
How soon we forget our own misguided youth. I know I made my share of mistakes in high school, more than I care to admit to. Some were petty and insignificant, but others were real life changers! One of the biggest and dumbest mistakes I made got me transferred out of a private school and into a public high school by way of a continuation high school. Talk about falling from grace, hell I took a big fall! If it hadn’t been for the effort of one particular teacher (you only had one in continuation) I very well may have never made it back to the regular high school. This guy didn’t care what I’d done or why I was there. He was more concerned with teaching and working with me so that I could return to the regular high school my senior year and graduate. He could have dealt with me very differently, but instead he gave me a chance and that’s what I really needed.
Good teachers work with the students they’re given. They don’t waste time hemming and hawing about who should or shouldn’t be in their classroom and attempt to ‘thin the herd’ so to speak. They jump right in and commence teaching. When I taught sixth grade I always used the ‘clean slate’ principle. I usually had 30 – 36 students coming to the middle school from three different feeder schools. I never wanted to know anything about their past discipline problems. My classroom was a fresh start, a new beginning. That’s what every classroom teacher should strive for, making students feel welcome and letting them know that their past will not come back to haunt them while they’re in the classroom.
Teaching is not an easy job especially when so many students would rather be anywhere else than in the classroom. In the perfect world every teacher would have a classroom full of students who are there to learn each and every year. But in the real world our schools are made up of students who want to learn, students who are there only to socialize, some with very real family problems and emotional needs, attention seekers who enjoy disruption and a handful of class clowns. As this student body is dissected and scheduled for classes you can see that the diversity of the students in a particular classroom gives it the potential to go in a variety of directions.
That’s where teachers come in. They are the difference, the field generals of the classroom. They take what they’re given, work with them, teach them to believe in themselves and bring the best out in them. When I think of a good teacher I think of the likes of Jaime Escalante and others like him who transform, what many would consider the worst of students, into shining stars!
Sadly that was never going to happen with this student in this teacher’s classroom, he would never be successful there because she would never give him the chance. I could have dug in my heels and kept the student in her class, but what for, to prove my point at his expense? No thanks, I chose to move him out of her class and give him the opportunity to succeed instead of butting heads with this particular teacher. She may feel that she has won, but I know it is the student who really won.
Teaching is not a job for prima donna’s. If teachers want to handpick students go to a private school. If they want a challenge then they should stay in the public school system and work with their students, giving them a second chance, a third and fourth if need be. Transform them into a first rate class, equivalent to a hand picked class. Teachers, These students have the talent and potential to be successful within them, DO YOU?