I love summer, life slows and I have an opportunity to learn and reflect at my own pace without the distractions of work. Before I got into administration my students would love/dread the days I mowed my lawn because I would always have some story or reflection about the class the day after. I have a big lawn and I have lots of time to think and connect the dots while I mow.
Yesterday I was thinking about a conversation I had with a teacher I know. We were waiting for our kids to finish their activity and were chatting away. Talk inevitably turned to shop and a former student’s name came up. I chuckled and asked how he was doing. I chuckled because I remember the student from Middle School – very intelligent, but easily distracted and work completion was always a concern. That said, I smiled because I had positive memories about him.
My friends is a highly respected teacher and his response surprised me. He said, “I don’t know why that kid is still in my class. He failed last year and he is going to fail again this year. ADMINISTRATION refuses to do anything about it! They just keep putting him in my class.”
I was blown away. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I couldn’t imagine having a student fail a class twice and not looking at what I was doing in the classroom. I couldn’t imagine not looking into the WHY he was failing? WHY he was not doing his work? Why there was such a disconnect between student and school?
Too often in life, particularly education, we often use the excuse that we don’t have enough time for things. My friend is a hard working teacher and is committed to his work, but he uses time as an excuse. He teaches academic, curriculum heavy courses, but it just does not wash. I’m not saying that people aren’t busy; I understand that time is a finite thing, and there is only so much of it during a single day, but we have time or make time for what we value. If we value kids over curriculum, then that’s where we need to invest our minutes.
When people say they don’t have time to implement something new, or to reach a difficult student I have to disagree. What people are really saying is that it is not a priority. That’s OK, we don’t all need to have the same priorities, but I wonder if the things people are spending time on are things that are really important? I suggest taking some time to reflect and define your purpose for your classroom. If the purpose is to cover curriculum, then there is a trade off – potentially disengaged students. I know teachers feel the pressures of the curriculum, but it is our job as administrators to ensure that they understand that kids always come before ILO’s and allow them to put the curriculum aside when necessary.