Lately there have been all sorts of articles and discussions about public education. Sadly, a lot of the information is true. Teachers are forced to use less of their own creativity in lessons and collect more data to make sure all students are performing the same on assessments created by professionals who aren’t in the classroom everyday.
The other day I read an article by a teacher who recently retired because she didn’t believe in the system anymore. She felt all of her students were receiving good grades because she would be criticized by administration if they didn’t. Students who didn’t earn a passing grade because of lack of motivation were receiving passing grades and moving onto the next grade. A reader left a comment on the article and said, “Only teach the ones who care.” Well, sir, you are part of the problem. Do nurses get to only treat the patients who deserve their care? Do police officers get to protect only the citizens who follow the laws? No. Nurses have to treat drug addicts who are close to over dosing. Police officers have to protect all citizens. They may not want to, but they do it so they can continue to go to a job that they love everyday. Teachers can’t just teach the students who care, even though that would be the easy way of doing things.
This may just be my special education teacher beliefs coming out, but aren’t the students who lack motivation the ones who needs us most? Most of the time these students have more problems in their 13 years of life than a 50 year old man could ever imagine. In the United States it is a right for every child to receive a free public education. In our country we don’t just pick the children who pass a particular test and allow them to go to school. Every child has the right to learn. Every child has the ability to learn.
I teach because I believe in the ability of my coworkers and myself to make a difference in the lives of children who have lost all hope. I teach because I believe every student has the ability to learn. I teach because I want to show these students they can learn. I teach because sometimes teachers are the only stability a child has in their life. I teach because I enjoy the challenge. I teach because I believe in the potential of every single one of my students. I teach because of the light bulb that goes off when students finally understand a concept after weeks of frustration. I teach because seeing the growth a student has made in a year brings tears to my eyes. I teach because I can.
Of course it’s easier, to only teach the ones who care. I would be lying if I said there aren’t days I want to throw in the towel and move on to a student who wants my help. Nothing great ever comes from things being easy. I want to be great, so I don’t “just teach the ones who care.”
Yes, public education is being scrutinized by many right now. I might be too naive (or have the new teacher syndrome) to understand everything that is going on. I hope I never get to the point where I don’t love my job and feel forced to retire because I don’t believe in the system. I don’t ever want to be the teacher who doesn’t believe in the potential of every student.