When I was a kid, I felt sorry for some of my teachers, and what they went through to get and keep their students’ attention as they guided us through our lessons. Some of them seemed to have a gift, and knew just what to say and do, and others struggled. I never wanted to be on that stage, having to perform to a tough audience.
Yet here I am decades later, on that stage and unable to tear myself away from the joy of learning along with my students about the things that really matter in life. Classroom subjects not only include reading, writing, math, and all of the topics that require these basic skills to access, but also how to care about other people and work together as a team.
We have high expectations of teachers, and considering the lack of personal responsibility our society in general demonstrates, these expectations may not be realistic. What should be a joyful experience, learning, has become a treacherous undertaking. Everyone knows about education, because we have all attended school. Most people have their own ideas about what is important to be taught, and how it should be done. It is assumed that teachers have a lot of control over this process, because, after all, they are the ones in the classroom with all those kids.
But these days teachers are told what and how to teach by politicians, parents, and even kids. They are pressured to adjust grades, make learning “fun” by relaxing requirements and not give homework, attend to a myriad of paperwork requirements, attend meetings, and respond to concerns about everything from who is sitting next to Johnny to whether a homeless child has what he or she needs to make it to school and be successful. Teaching has always been more than a full-time job.
But teachers used to be held in high regard. They were authority figures. Today we hold professional athletes in higher esteem than the men and women who formally educate our children, and many of us don’t want to get involved in the process of our child’s education except to complain about it. Some are so involved that their child’s teacher can’t make a move without sending them an email.
In an environment where students, parents, and community members second-guess the decisions that teachers are trained to make, without knowing the reasons behind these decisions, the trust that is necessary to create a safe learning environment is not able to develop. It is the distrust in the educational environment, as well as in our society in general, that is so destructive. Until we are able to hold ourselves and our children accountable for appropriate and responsible behavior and decision-making, perhaps we should ease up on the professionals who spend their days preparing the next generation to do a better job than we have done.