Earlier last week, my students were working in small groups discussing their summer reading novel. As I moved around the classroom listening to and facilitating discussions, one thing I heard over and over again was how much the students really liked this year’s summer reading and that it was the only summer book they ever really read. The reason for that is the subject of another post entirely, but it is enough to say that as I listened, I also heard some other disturbing trends. One group of students complained that they had 4 tests the next day, which clearly was some Communist plot by teachers to ensure students didn’t have a life and/or failed their classes. Another group overheard and chimed in, criticizing their teachers’ handling of the material, specifically that some teachers didn’t seem to know the curriculum well enough to give correct information to students so they could study. A different group grumbled about band and sports practices after school that would keep them at school until long after dinner and they had hours’ worth of homework to do when they arrived home. I questioned them about their preferences or what they thought could be done to correct it, and before I knew it and could stop them, they were unloading years of bitterness about specific teachers and classes (they’re brutally honest!). Continue reading “What Students Wish Their Teachers Knew”
It seems no matter where we look, we are constantly bombarded by the many and various evils attacking our youths in today’s educational system: inappropriate student-teacher relationships, child abuse, unqualified teachers, unreasonable zero tolerance policies, volatile union riots, over-testing, questionable curricula, funding, the list goes on. It seems every day a new story is “exposed;” news channels like Fox News and NBC News even have segments called “The Trouble with Schools” and “Education Nation.” Simply watching the news or reading headlines could easily persuade us that schools today are corrupt, unhealthy places for children to be and the only answer for parents who care at all about their children is either private schooling or homeschooling, and if neither is an option for parents, then they may as well throw in the towel and accept the inevitable subpar education their child will receive because they can do nothing to change the outcome.
I may perhaps be overstating the case, although I’m not so sure when one considers the fear-mongering the media perpetuates by reporting nearly exclusively the terrible events happening in schools and the need for education reform. Certainly there are a few instances where the media occasionally features one good thing happening at one school in one corner of the United States, and every now and then, Hollywood gets on board by making a movie that highlights the positive impact a teacher had on his or her students such as Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me, Freedom Writers, Coach Carter, and The Ron Clark Story; or (as if excellent teachers are difficult to unearth somehow) they write fiction-feelgood: Dangerous Minds, Dead Poets Society, Mr. Holland’s Opus. However, more often than not, even Hollywood perpetuates the myth that teachers and schools are warped or deceptive: Bad Teacher, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, The Faculty, Election, The Breakfast Club, even Ferris Buehler’s Day Off (yes, I know—it’s a classic for all ages but it still misrepresents the motivations of teachers and schools). Continue reading “A Call to Action to all Education Stakeholders”
Besides Christmas and the end of the school year, the first weeks of school seem to be the most popular time for former students to send emails, cards, or simply come around to visit. Certainly one of the most rewarding aspects of being a teacher is when students continue to share their lives with us long after they’ve left our classrooms. Some of them are excited about their path toward great success, while others seem to be stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for something, although they can’t quite articulate what that is. One thing they all have in common, though, is the greeting: “Remember me? It’s your favorite student!”
It always tickles me when kids who graduated a mere three months ago ask if I remember them, as if my short term memory is somehow compromised, yet they all follow it with the proclamation that they are my favorite student. The logic is a bit asinine: if indeed they are my favorite, then surely I wouldn’t forget them. Nonetheless, it seems to be more about ensuring they mattered to me enough to remember them than it is about jockeying for position in my affections. I am always intrigued by this desire to be a “favorite,” but it is something I understand. Continue reading “What Makes a Great Teacher?”