Sunday, November 7, 2010

Don't Pass the Buck

As a teacher, it would be so easy to sit back and throw my hands in the air whenever I encounter a roadblock to educating my students. I will admit that I have never taught in a school that has a high number of low-income students or in a district that has been significantly strapped for cash. But I can say this: I have taught students who are very unmotivated to learn. I have taught students who are performing significantly below grade level. I have taught students who have had to work through undiagnosed or neglected learning disabilities. I have taught students whose don't care one bit about their child's education. I have taught students who have a crappy home life and can't do projects or homework at home. I have worked in a classroom with one window and no air conditioning where the room temperature was close to 90 degrees. I have worked with administrators who have not supported me. I have been forced to teach without things I need -- enough novels or paper to make copies or a television or an overhead projector. While I may not work in a "bad" school or a "poor" school, I have had my share of road blocks and stumbling blocks put in the way of my ability to teach my students. However, every time I encounter a barrier, I refuse to give up. Good teachers don't give up under adverse conditions. Good teachers don't say, "I don't have kids who care. I don't have parents who care. I don't have administrators who support me. I don't have the supplies I need. I don't have the conditions I need. My district doesn't have the money. I can't teach these kids." This, to me, is passing the buck. At the end of the school day, there is only one factor I have control over, and that is myself. I can choose to say, "Well, this student clearly has a learning disability but no IEP so I don't know how anyone expects me to teach her," or I can say, "Well, this student clearly has a learning disability and no IEP so I guess I'll have to figure out what I can do to help her the best way I can." I can choose to say, "The parents don't make their kids get off their video games and do homework, and if the parents don't care then I don't care and there's nothing I can do," or I can say, "The parents don't make their kids get off their video games and do homework, so since they don't care, I will be the one who cares and has expectations for these kids." I refuse to pass the buck and say I can't be a good teacher because there are too many adversities. Teachers are accountable to themselves first. If teachers hold themselves accountable to themselves, then they will be able to side-step the obstacles and no one will be able to say they are bad teachers. This is what being a professional is all about.


    I agree 100%. On a regular basis, I find myself saying to other teachers "but isn't that our job?" or "but don't you think that's our job?". I don't understand people who've decided to be teachers and think any differently than what you've expressed in this post.
    I do understand that until you do it, there is no way to grasp the challenges you'll undergo and the committment it takes just to survive much less excel. I think there are many teachers who should have walked away.
    I know that the second I start to give up on kids or lose site of all that my role as a teacher entails, I will leave the classroom. I don't know why others don't. I wish they would do what is required - giving more than 100%, or step down to allow someone who will to take over.