Saturday, June 11, 2011

You're Just One Teacher...

Sit back and reflect on this following phrase:


Over the course of one's academic career, a person will probably have over a couple hundred teachers. Some teachers stay with a child for a couple years, some just a couple weeks. Regardless, you are just one of a couple hundred. You can look at this a couple ways.

Your time is brief and your impact may be limited, your message or passion may be lost amongst the other teachers, your time period is all too short

I chose not to look at it this way. Why? Well, for one, I remember the few great teachers I had. And looking back they had a disproportional influence over me. Their influence amounted to more than the .05 percent that one in 200 dictates. Sure, it may be a short time, but a teacher may show ways of thinking or inherent skills that can be used for a lifetime. In short, for the well being of my positive attitude, I need to believe that individual actors (me) can make a difference.

But then we must look at the flip side of this. Can bad teachers have a disproportional impact? No, this is not a post about the high levels of bad teachers. I think that the quality of teaching is, on whole, really good. I don't buy into the conventional wisdom that it is teachers leading us down the path to educational ruin, but that is for a different post. Tangent aside, do students carry with them the negative experiences of education? Sure they have to.

This became clear to me awhile back as I was dealing with a student who was having a "discipline" issue. After much shouting out and other attention getting behavior, I pulled him aside and wanted to really talk to him. I asked him what was wrong and he said he was bored and just couldn't pay attention. I apologized for designing a task/lesson that was not engaging to him and genuinely asked him what he would like to do to change the lesson. His response was mystifying. "Why should I tell you? It's not going to happen anyways. How many times have teachers asked me for my opinion and it has never happened? Nothing is going to change. It never does. This is a waste of my time."

I really wanted to know. I really wanted to address this student's needs. I really wanted to change things to make it engaging and relevant. But I am just one teacher who has to contend with a string of broken promise (or perceived broken promises). Can I compete with all these conflicting messages and histories? Once again, I say yes (mainly because I have to for my sanity). I say yes because it is my job to do this. I say yes because I have seen it happen and have tasted success before.

But it is really something to chew on.

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