The Thankful Student
Originally posted on November 24, 2014
In this season where Americans are asked to number the things for which they are thankful, encouraging this practice in the students you send off to our classroom each day is a healthy activity not only for their present but their future.
Often when it comes to school, students seem most thankful for the times they can escape its hallowed halls. They desire to extend vacation as long as possible and moan and complain when work is assigned near major breaks. But, if we can help them look at education from a different perspective, perhaps that attitude might change.
The first thing students should give thanks for is the fact they get to be students at all. In many places, both past and present, near and far, education was and is not highly valued. In some places today your gender still determines whether or not you are educated, while in others it is your income level. Now, we clearly see education disparity in America, but to actually be denied an education is another matter. When I look out across my classroom, I sometimes wonder what it would be like if only boys filled its seats or only a certain race were privileged enough to receive the tools they need to have a chance to succeed in life. If that were the case, my room would be empty both physically and spiritually.
Students should also be thankful for the teachers and staff who work hard to provide that education. While I am the last to complain about the hours and pay involved in my job, as I knew many of the pitfalls when entering this industry, I do not deny that much of what I choose to do to provide the best education possible for my students is neither required nor well compensated. For all those who think our vacation days are carefree, please note that I am “on vacation” right now, have worked much of the weekend and still have a very large stack of work that will occupy my week. Some weeks are better than others, but they should remember we willingly sacrifice a good deal of our “off hours” to help them succeed.
The last, but certainly not the least, of those who deserve recognition are many of you: the parents and guardians who do your best to raise your children and prepare them for what lies ahead. You are the ones challenging them to apply themselves in traditional or accelerated courses. You are sitting down each night and trying to help them understand the complexities of their assignments and figure out how they can finish their work on time. You are driving them to practices and competitions for the extracurricular activities that enrich their education and lives. You are explaining to them that learning from occasional failure can often be more important than achieving constant success. What you do is not required either, but is given freely out of love and a desire to see them do as well as, or perhaps much better than, you have done in the game of life.
To show students how much I care, and to give them a bit of perspective, I will from time to time “pull back the curtain” and explain the amount of work that goes into creating or grading their work. This helps them realize I am as committed, and sometimes more committed, to this process as they are. Helping them understand how dedicated you and so many others are to the proposition that their education is vitally important is a great way to motivate them to achieve success at this level and beyond. If such thankfulness prompts them to work harder in their present studies and future jobs, it likely will reap a bountiful harvest down the road, giving them much to rejoice in as they mature.
Now that’s something that deserves to be celebrated on more than just the fourth Thursday of November.
Originally posted on June 10, 2014
While many teachers and parents in America are focused on the rollout of new educational standards, there is an interesting conversation going on across The Pond. Recent news articles out of London have highlighted a debate in the British government about plans to enforce stricter consequences for parents whose children are not in class on time and fail to show respect for teachers and the educational process.
At my school, like many others, we have an assortment of positive and negative incentives to attend class and participate in learning activities. From detentions for tardies to prize giveaways sponsored by local businesses for perfect attendance, we strive to help students understand the importance of being in their seats when class begins. We also honor students throughout the year both as a staff and individually for their efforts to do well in class and help others do the same.
While the problems in the United Kingdom are specific to the country itself, the proposal of holding parents responsible for the actions of their children may launch an interesting discussion on this side of the Atlantic as well. The proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child” naturally comes to mind here. Despite the best efforts of teachers and staff, it is all too easy in a student population of several hundred to several thousand for some students’ poor attendance or behavior to go unchecked. This is why we need to work together to help students be on time and on track. Teachers, counselors and support staff often put in significant effort to helping students succeed, but it is only with the help and assistance of parents and guardians that we will achieve this goal.
Whether or not we need to adopt these specific policies, hopefully this conversation is a reminder we all are responsible for teaching children positive habits and behaviors, whether or not we possess a teaching credential.
I have been a public high school teacher in Southern California since 2005 and writing since junior high. I have an affinity for chocolate, photography, sarcasm and well-written TV shows that refuse to talk down to their audiences.