What every kid wants is not no homework.
Or busy work.
Or easy A’s.
Even a teacher who’s a friend.
No, what kids want is an opportunity to excel.
Nothing more. And nothing less.
The dirty secret going around some schools is that kids actually do want to learn. Now, here’s the catch: If they’re actually working towards something, whether that be the completing a task-based assignment that allows them to show they understand, as opposed to know something about, a concept, or the connecting of a basic fundamental concept and its application to more complex problems. The point is what they are doing, what they are learning, has to be real.
Kids want someone who will take the time to explain, not lecture or condescend.
They want someone who’s not going to put the blame on them when the majority of the class fails to produce a desired result.
Kids want their teachers to be held to the same standards every human should be held to – that is, one of accountability.
I’ve never understood how teachers can expect their students to be accountable for their actions if the teachers themselves are not. Not much of a math guy unless it pertains to making money, paying bills, or other practical applications formal schooling usually does not offer, I’m pretty confident the likelihood of the students ALWAYS being wrong and the teachers ALWAYS being right is zero. Which is the perfect way to characterize teachers who in no way prepare their students for the next level, whether that be middle school, high school, or college. Zeroes, some maybe even negative numbers.
As much as some truly enlightened educators of the old guard like to think that they know better and kids should just shut up, do the work, and accept being force-fed knowledge they have neither the desire to learn nor the know-how to apply, these teachers are downright wrong. And I truly do believe this negligent, teacher-centered form of instruction in combination with a lack of know-how and proper planning proves detrimental to students. Its long-term impact on their futures should not be underscored.
I mentioned in ‘Grades Up, Intelligence Down’ how ‘my concern is not with bruising a man-or-woman-child’s ego. It is – as it always has been – with ensuring that my students not only have the knowledge they need but the means to put it into practice. It doesn’t help them if they believe themselves to be at an advanced level when in reality they are below grade level. How can they ever improve if that’s the case? They can’t’.
In short, if we set our students up to fail, they will fail – go figure. When a good number of students struggle with a concept, the savvy educator goes back and looks at his/her planning to discover a flaw – maybe in the expectations of the task-based culminating assessment or the unit design on the whole, maybe in the building up from simple to complex, maybe even in the assessment measures used. Then, that same educator makes the necessary modifications, even going back and reteaching if necessary.
Students, not teachers, are the ones who matter in education. We’re the stewards of tomorrow’s leaders. Everything we do, every decision we make, should be in their interest – not our own or our administration’s. And there have to be meticulous plans in place to ensure this happens. It should not be atypical to have departmental meetings or team meeting to discuss the student’s individual educational needs and how best to put said student in a position to succeed.
But that makes too much sense. Instead, let’s leave a student’s success or failure to chance. Let’s forget about academic scaffolding. Let’s offer little guidance as to how to strengthen weaknesses. As long as the grades go up, the student must be learning, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. That’s the kind of thinking that gets you in a predicament where the grades you give are in no way indicative of a student’s intelligence.
My favorite interrogative has led me to the bleakest realization: some teachers – even some schools – don’t care about the kids or the kids’ futures, only about getting a meager check and making it to June. So, blame the student first and never ask the question why – it’s so much easier to pass the buck to the students because they’re kids and they make mistakes. But not the infallible adults, never them. And people wonder why there is a respect gap between teachers and students nowadays (in truth, there are myriad reasons for this).
I’ve always said that respect is commanded through actions, not demanded. To get the respect from the kids, you have to respect yourself, respect them, and, most importantly, respect their futures. That starts with the one the kids look to for guidance.