"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell, where his influence stops."
~Henry Brooks Adams
"Fire all the teachers", sounds like a good idea when students fail. Sounds good, but it is a solution of failure, it is not the answer. The teachers for the most part are extremely hard working and dedicated. The problem is not the teachers, in most cases it is the parents that are the problem. Politicians won't tell you this, the school administration won't tell you this, the chancellor of the Department of Education won't tell you this, because it is always easier to blame the teachers. Parents are a big voting block and the politicians are afraid to shake things up. After twenty five years in a classroom in a middle school in Brooklyn teaching kids from poor, immigrant and working class families certain truths become very apparent.
In this environment the teacher is more than a teacher, the teacher is often a disciplinarian, a counselor, and surrogate parent, a role model and compassionate ear, and problem solver. One of the major problems in an inner city school is children that have no support system at home, or live in a home where there are parents who work long hours and get home very late and have little or no interaction with their children. There are kids being raised by aunts, or older siblings, or kids where English is not spoken at home or where there are no books or even newspapers in English, and if the school didn't provide breakfast many of these kids would go hungry. Then there are the kids with parents that are themselves poorly educated, who are incapable of helping their child or are poor role models as a result of life styles of violence, alcohol and drugs. Then there are kids with parents in jail, or on drugs or most often in single parent homes.
To many students the real lessons they learn are learned on the streets. These kids and sometimes their parents see violence as a solution to a problem. Education and learning is often seen as a waste of time. To a classroom teacher, often from the middle class, who lives far away from the school neighborhood and can't relate to the lifestyle of the children there may be disconnect. Despite these differences and challenges most teachers are dedicated and care deeply about their students and struggle daily with how best to get his message across. Many of these kids are problem kids and create chaos in the classroom often making it more difficult for the teacher to teach and for the kids that want to, to learn. Despite all these problems teachers teach and work and are dedicated to their kids learning.
State education departments constantly tinker with the system, restructure tests, require mountains of paper work from the teachers to justify their own existences. Yet the real problem is ignored. The problem is the home life. Responsibility for failing students needs to be placed where it belongs, in the home. When a parent says to a teacher, 'He doesn't listen to me, I don't know what to do", and the parent bore the child, raised the child and now has no control of their 12 year old. What can they expect of a teacher who sees the child for 40 minutes three to four times a week with another 29 to 30 kids in a classroom? It is time that the focus and responsibility for failing students be placed where it belongs, in the home. If the parents are failing with their kids they are failing their kids and sending them to school unprepared and that is where it all begins.
Keith Olbermann's father died Saturday March 13th. Keith Olbermann has shared his pain over his dad's illness over the last few months. To Keith Olbermann and his family my condolences and prayers.
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