I recently read the angry, yet all too predictable, ranting of a former teacher in the op-ed section of the local newspaper.
… Let me tell you, I taught in my district for 16 years. I had wonderful children in my classroom who worked hard and took pride in their education. My career as a teacher was rewarding, and it was an honor to have such fine children in my classroom. But it wasn’t easy. I faced adversity over and over again. No, not from difficult students, but from the “system.”
I had a reputation as being a hard, scary teacher. Why? Because I had high expectations for my students, and I held them to it. I refused to lower the bar. I believed in each young man and woman who walked into my classroom. This is what got me into trouble. On more than one occasion, I was told by my academic deans that my expectations were “too high” and I needed to back off.
Really? This bar is called accountability. I am not sure administrators know what that word means anymore.
For several decades, we held students accountable for their actions, whether it be academic success or failure, behavior, or attendance. Furthermore, parents were held accountable as well. Now we have students missing school chronically who make up their poor attendance by sitting in a portable building on Saturday’s doing nothing, and we offer “redo’s” when the students don’t do well on assignments…
SC Response Don’t be fooled by this teacher’s claim of great success. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that it won’t stand up to scrutiny. Here’s why…
Great teaching really boils down to great coaching. To paraphrase the late, great O.A. “Bum” Phillips, “A good coach can win with his players. A GREAT coach can win with your players.”
Meaning a good coach says (and does), “I have one way of coaching. For YOU to succeed, YOU must conform to my way.”
With this coach (or teacher) success is only available / possible for a certain type of player (or student).
A great coach says (and does), “It is MY job to make you successful. I will do what it takes to make sure that MY coaching maximizes your success.”
With this coach (or teacher) success is available / possible for every type of player (or student).
The “good ol’ days” of education really weren’t. In the good ol’ days, to be successful in school, the student had to be the round peg that fit in the round hole. The student had to possess the right skill set, the right personality, the right motivation and/or the right parents to be successful. To be fair, there were a lot of students who had those attributes (though those students looked suspiciously similar to each other). And, to be honest, a lot of those students grew up to be teachers.
But what if you were the square peg? What if you didn’t possess the attributes that schools and teachers valued and demanded? To be blunt, it was not the good ol’ days for these students. Instead, it was a living nightmare for these students and their families. For these students, school wasn’t a place of nurturing and hope. School was the place you went to every day that demeaned and tore you down. Until you could no longer take it and you slinked away.
This is not poetic license. This is the past viewed without rose colored glasses. I graduated from a large Texas high school (it’s even bigger now). Personally, I thrived in the setting I just described. Along with 500 of my fellow graduating Seniors. Which sounds like an endorsement of the way it was. But it’s not. Because that graduating Senior class of 500, started out as a Freshman class of 750. In a single, one-year cohort of students, “the good ol’ days” failed 250 children that I grew up with.
Today’s educator graduates more students, with more diverse needs, from more diverse backgrounds, to higher levels of success, than ever before in the history of our country. These modern educators accomplish this not by doing what they used to do. They accomplish this by leaning forward, evolving their craft, to do what needs to be done, TODAY.
We have those in our profession that were unable to evolve from where we were to where we are. If they recognized this and retired, we celebrate their past service and contributions, which were considerable.
But when push comes to shove, if that person wants to trumpet their “success” in an attempt to tear down forward progress, they force us to shine a light on their significant failures. That being the considerable number of academic casualties they produced (up to 40% of the overall student population) in the name of conformity and “high expectations.”
To the current educators that read the same ed/op that I did, let that bitter ex-teacher stew in his/her own guilt and regret. You, and the people you work with in classrooms today, have more important things to worry about.
Think. Work. Achieve.
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