Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Where Does One Draw the Line?
This leaves me, as the teacher, in a bit of a lurch. You see, teachers walk a tight-rope to begin with. We, generally speaking, try our best to support, cheer on, and encourage our students to be successful, responsible citizens of our respective schools. However, at any given time, many teachers (myself included), step over the line and into the role of parent (or counselor, enforcer, etc.). While the actual distance a teacher travels from "teacher" role to one of these "other" roles is minute, it requires a HUGE change in energy, time, and emotional investment.
For example. Let's say that a student you have been working with all school year in regards to bringing homework, signed planners, signed grades, projects, and more is making improvements. Then one day he/she stops coming with the little they were doing. You, as a teacher, remind the student of the obligation he/she is under to complete assignments. You also offer encouraging words, and praise the student for their hard work (while knowing inside realistically they have done very little).
The next day nothing.
The next, again nothing.
You pull the student aside and express you disappointment in his/her lack of responsibility. You give a "life lecture" and express your confidence they can and will improve.
The next day, nothing.
Again, you pull the student aside. You ask what you can do to help them. In return, you get a shoulder shrug, a mumbled excuse that it was "forgotten", and that the grade isn't a big deal to them.
Here is where the teacher has to make a choice. This is a jumping off point. A point that ultimately leads down a path of no return.
Now here is where my nagging question has been playing over and over and over in my mind. This dilemma is eating me up. I believe I am actually becoming depressed over it.
I want SO DESPERATELY for each child that enters my classroom to feel safe, acknowledged, and willing to work hard. What I get in reality is a group of students (in general) that are unmotivated, unwilling to try, and flat out bullies to one another. (At this point I do acknowledge that in the past these students that were a challenge were by far the minority. But as the years progress, they are becoming the majority. I have many students whom are excellent at learning, believing in themselves, and making an effort to learn. Thanks to those precious few).
So the dilemma- the one of which I have successfully avoided.
Is it ever okay to back away from the line towards the school side. To simply let a student know you have done all you can for them (Is it possible to say you HAVE done all you can for them?) and that you hope they discover, on their own, the need to step-up?
If you back away from that line and "abandon" the student to their on demise is that unprofessional? Is that unethical? Is that giving up on the future of America? Does it mean that I am not fit to be a teacher anymore?
NOW, before you wax all judgmental and starting spouting words of encouragement or disdain, I will present another headscratcher.
IF, I don't back away from the line, my only option would then be to move towards the parent side of the line. I then must start to nag them, hound them, threaten them with all sorts of creative and punitive consequences (which usually are more of a punishment for the teacher who is left to enforce them during breaks/recess time- which is also break time for the teacher).
As I read back over this posting, I am not sure I have been able to completely capture the true anxiety that a teacher feels in this situation.
Me? I am what I would hope others would call a dedicated teacher. I work many hours outside of school to ensure that materials and lessons are prepared. I spend extra money to provide activities and experiences that I feel enhance learning. I strive to be interactive and a technology user. I greet every student every morning as they enter the room and talk to them, ask about them, try to show interest in them. I guess what I am driving at it that I am 100% invested in teaching my students. This isn't a brag or a boast. (If you were to look at testing results for the past several years- you would NOT get that idea at all). Rather I am trying to present all the facts, all the evidence before judgement is passed.
One more piece of "evidence" to lay out there. I don't ask for anything in return from my students, other than their very best work. However, I will say that it is emotionally draining to put yourself out there day after day- greeting, working, striving, hoping- and get nothing in return. No "Thanks for helping me today". No, "That was a great lesson Mr. Hughes". I don't mean to sound like a whiner. I don't really expect those things. But it simply shows that most students are oblivious to what a teacher does for them behind the scenes that they will never understand or appreciate (unless they become a teacher themselves).
So, what is the answer?
I really don't know. I will spend many restless nights during the last five weeks of school, waging a battle against what I WANT and what I hope is right. I hope my soul won't become a casualty of war and that my actions are worthy of a professional educator.