Optimistic Teacher … despite the odds

My husband has told me that I am a pessimist.  For the most part I would have to agree.  However, there is one place where I am a definite optimist – teaching (and leading – which I consider almost synonymous but is not the focus of today’s post).

I have consistently had great hope and confidence in my students.  I set high expectations and watched my students succeed.  I have comforted them when they struggle and rejoiced as they have soared.  I believe in the human race.  In its capacity to create, dream, explore and innovate.  This is something that I believe belongs in the classroom.  (I believe it belongs in our leaders – but that is another road I will not take today.)

So when I read about Fear and Self-Loathing In the Classroom by William Johnson, I am disheartened.  I am not surprised, but it does make me sad.  While I do believe there is room for improvement in education, constantly hearing that you are failing does not engender even hope for change.

There are so many places students, children, teenagers are told they are not good enough.  Advertisers, the number of friends on Facebook, what they wear, what phone they have, grades etc.  Presidents and other “education experts” have been declaring for many years “Our schools are failing”.  We don’t need to add to the bucket of “fear and self-loathing”.

Some of the vignettes William Johnson shares in his article – a student becoming physically ill during high-stakes testing, another shaking uncontrollably while trying to recite a 14-line poem, the tears of not feeling smart enough for high school.  These are not isolated events.  With each cry of “Our schools are failing!”, do we not realize the impact on the individual students.

At the end of his article he cites the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher and teacher Dan Brown’s summary of the report in stating that our schools of full of fear.  This is not the ideal environment in which to grow our future.

I uncomfortably feel the weight of that fear.  My teaching has taken me out of the classroom.  I am one of those numbers who has left the K-12 classroom.  I taught for 10 years.  My last group of students will be forever ingrained in my heart.  I went back for their graduation.  The first graduation in their family for many of them.  I grieved for those who were not there.  I rejoiced with the family of the valedictorian with a full ride scholarship to Brown and all the other first time college bound students.  And I cried with each one who looked at me in complete astonishment that I had kept my promise to be there.  I had come because I believed in each on of them.  I still do.

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