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What Teachers REALLY Want

Teaching is a difficult profession. There’s no denying it. But there’s something about teaching that most people don’t realize. While the United States has had an obsession over our failing schools and our poorly performing students, they have failed to realize the truth: Education has been used as a political tool for the past decade and the results have made things no better off than where they were when we started. Sure, it sounds great to say “We won’t leave a single child behind!” Every teacher in the world would love to make that guarantee, but the fact of the matter is that teachers have so little control over the things that really matter in a child’s life. That’s where we get to the heart of this article: What Teachers REALLY Want!

Teachers want to be respected.

I see news snippets and articles all the time about how bad a particular teacher is or how poorly a particular school did on a statewide assessment. Districts are closed, reorganized, staff fired, students moved, and to what end? Politicians want you to believe that it’s teachers who are failing our students, our schools are underperforming, principals and administrators aren’t doing enough to ensure our children’s success. The problem with all of this is that none of it is true. Schools are doing more than ever. Teachers are doing more than humanly possible. Principals and administrators are throwing every thing they have to raise test scores. The result: Teachers are made to feel ineffectual, not respect for their professional expertise, and in some cases downright unwanted. When time is taken away from genuine classroom teaching in favor of computer programs or other district initiatives that teachers know are going to do little to help a student, it has a negative impact on the person that matters the most. The teacher. Let’s face it. Study after study shows that the best learning occurs when there is a teacher guiding the instruction. No amount of software or curriculum is going to help a child succeed without a teacher there to push them along.

Teacher don’t want more money (yes, it would be nice, but it’s not what we want). Teachers want to be respected for the time they’ve put into their degree, into their classrooms, into their children. While it’s certainly true not every teacher is a great teacher, most put their heart and soul into their work not because they want a good paycheck or because they want to advance their career. They’re there for one reason. Kids. They want to be there. So why on Earth would you want to make teachers feel unappreciated and not respected? More good teachers have left in the last few years that I have been teaching simply because they are burned out and tired of being treated like an hourly employee. More and more teachers are being told what to do in their classroom, then being blamed when their students don’t do well on tests. Would you want to work in an environment like that?

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Why Students SHOULD Fail

As a 16 year teaching veteran having worked in various capacities over the years I’ve noticed a trend that is quite troubling. It also seems to be a trend that has caught the attention of other educators, but seems to elude some parents—although I’ll be quick to point out that I’m not sure it’s necessarily parents’ fault. We have created a society that praises ignorance and virtually eliminates opportunity for true learning and growth. We do it in schools, we do it at home, we even do it on TV. We have become a society where students are failing at life because they haven’t learned how to take risks and develop a healthy degree of confidence. That’s why today’s post will focus on why your child SHOULD fail.

In a previous post, The Success of Failure, I pointed out the root of why failing is a good thing for a child. Consult developmental specialists and psychologists and ask them the number one way that children learn, each of them will give you the same answer. Children learn through failure and mistakes. Case in point: infants who are carried more, develop the ability walk later than children who are allowed to crawl and explore. Parents who are fearful of their child getting hurt are hesitant to allow their child free reign of their environment. This inadvertently robs the child of the opportunity to explore and take risks to stand. Each time the child falls, they are learning what to do and what not to do in order to be successful. Failing is as important to learning as success.

Take for example the most successful individuals in history. Steve Jobs was a poster child for risk. He thought outside the box and pushed people to create products everyone else was too afraid to create. He took risks on each and every one, spending millions on development and materials. The payoff is clear: the higher the risk, the more success of the product. Was he always successful? No. But that only furthers the point. Without experiencing failures, Steve Jobs would never have learned what it takes to create truly successful products.

The same is true in schools. Research is proving that the effects of over-protective parenting and school environments is having an adverse affect on our kids. Check out this article in the Huffington Post: Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids?This article is spot on when it comes to pointing out some of the problems facing future generations. Parents and teachers alike believe that by protecting students from harm, we are ensuring a successful future. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. By protecting students, we are removing opportunities for kids to fail and learn. If students never fail in school, they never learn how to deal with failure in life. (And life is wrought with failure).

Growing Leaders is an organization dedicated to reversing this unfortunate trend. They provide services to schools and parents to make them aware of the dangers involved in “over-protecting” our youth. In the article, Three Huge Mistakes We Make Leading Kids, they point out the biggest mistakes we make and further illustrate why this message is so important for parents and teachers to understand. Kids need failure. They must experience the world in order to learn from it. If a child never gets burned, they never fully understand why fire is so dangerous. Protecting them by never allowing them around or near hot objects only leads them to have false misconceptions about the dangers of those objects. I’m not suggesting we should throw our kids into a campfire just for them to find out it’s hot. Allowing kids to explore the world more on their own while they’re young ensures that they understand it better when they are older.

Never in the history of mankind have kids been so sheltered and protected from the world around them and it’s beginning to take its toll on our youth. Schools are becoming just as involved in this trend as parents, enacting Crazy School Rules in the name of protecting children. Students are unprepared for the workplace, have huge misconceptions about expectations as an adult, and lack the independence, drive, and risk-taking necessary to be successful in the workforce. In order to reverse this trend, we need to begin educating teachers and parents alike to understand the dangers associated with over-protection. Kids learn through making mistakes; it’s a part of natural human development. If we deprive them of those opportunities, we only take away from their future.

If you have specific questions that you would like to have answered that are related to this topic, feel free to ask them in the comments section below. For more information about the author, please visit: J.M.Cataffo’s Author Website

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I thought this was an amazing video that illustrates the amazing things our youth are capable of if given the chance. Granted this kid is well beyond gifted, but it just goes to show you that our gifted learners are just as important as the struggling ones.

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