Education Letter to the Editor

Who’s Responsible?

March 15, 2006 24 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In a viewpoint article “Seen and Heard” in the March 2006 issue of Teacher, education researcher and former teacher Antonia Lewandowski wrote that today’s students need to have a better understanding of their own responsibility for their educations. Mary Downing, a language arts teacher at Learning Community Charter School in Jersey City, New Jersey, read the article and shared it with her 8th grade class just as they were preparing for the state’s standardized exams. After some classroom discussion, she asked the students to write down their thoughts about the divisions of responsibility in schools. The students’ comments are excerpted below.

I believe that, as students, our education is as much in our hands, if not more in our hands, as it is in the teachers. But there is too much out there to combat education and work, be it poverty, music, television, video games, friends, trends or any number of other things. There is not enough influence from teachers and educators. Most of the obstacles can also contribute positively to learning, but you have to use them in that manner.

Perhaps because of these things, teachers end up playing disciplinarian more than teacher. Some teachers can’t keep the class under control, and they end up jumping and screaming. Others have the ability to keep the class under control, but often at the cost of learning. There are some days when I come out of class with only noise and yelling in my head—and no knowledge.

However, I believe the problem is deeper than teachers and students, society and fashion. It runs to parents. Kids are extremely reliant on their parents at a young age. Their habits and attitudes are formed by the role model a parent provides. A child is influenced by a parent’s care and knowledge. Often people aren’t prepared to have children. Or they may be facing the struggles of poverty. Either way there are challenges that make it difficult to raise a child. Our nation needs to put more focus on youth and on the abilities of both parents and educators.

Alex Goold

The main factor of learning is not the teacher’s ability to make the class listen, or the students not wanting to learn. The main factor is luck. You may disagree with me, but look at it this way: You are a lucky student if you are motivated to learn. Other students may not have it that lucky. It might not be the students fault if, for example, if they aren’t motivated to learn. To all fans of self-motivation, I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t exist. Motivation depends on the student’s energy, hunger, mindset, and many other factors that may be affecting the student’s mood, or may have happened recently in the student’s life. If a student is too tired, hungry, depressed or ecstatic, chances are they won’t be performing their best in school.

I am speaking as a student who went through all of this last year, and I hope that I have given all the teachers an insight into the lives of people who are struggling in school, and hope that for now on instead of being hard on a struggling student, you will try some sensitivity and look into what problem is.

Alex Gurevich

I believe that my education is my responsibility 75% of the time, at the least. Doing my homework, doing my class work, and participating in class are all my responsibility. My grades are my responsibility, but the teacher has to help me so I get my work done and get good grades.

The teacher’s role is to teach us what we need to be taught and to help us when we need it. Of course, as students, we need to be open to being helped.

Bria Thomas

Teachers play an extremely huge role in my education because they have to give you recommendations. Sometimes a teacher will know, even though you get C’s, that you worked extremely hard, but they still give you a bad recommendation. That’s unfair. Also, teachers have to try to teach you, even if you’re so far from safe in terms of grades that they want to give up on you. They still have to try and not give up on you so you still learn something. Teachers shouldn’t play disciplinarian or try to be you best friend.

Christian Hernandez

My responsibility towards my education is high. I don’t want to fail and not learn. If I don’t learn and fail, I’m not going to be anything in life but a bum. I don’t want to be that—I want to be successful. I know the teachers give us homework and they teach us the material but it’s our responsibility to do it or not. I need an education because I want to be something in life.

Teachers play an important role. They teach me what I need to know and keep me motivated to do my work. The rest is up to me.

Christian McClarnon

As a student, you are responsible for fifty percent of your education because in school you choose to do your work. You choose to do your work, and you decide whether or not you will participate in class.

Teachers and parents play a part in the other half—teachers mainly because they are the ones that tell you what you need to know. If the teachers aren’t teaching you what you need to learn then what’s the point? You’ll just be learning things that don’t matter in life. Also, some teachers move way too fast in their lessons. So what if three quarters of the class knows how to do this subject? That’s great, but what about that one-quarter who don’t understand? They need help. The majority of teachers will just go to the next lesson and leave those kids in the dust.

I think that a way to show students that they will need education is by showing them that everything they want to do later in life will require education.

David Acosta

I think that students should have a lot of responsibility in their education because when they grow up it is going to be the student’s responsibility to use the education in their jobs.

I think teachers play a large role also. In order for us to take our education into jobs, teachers need to teach us what to do.

I think that a way the students could be encouraged to take more responsibility is to reward them when they do well in class. Every Wednesday we have a circle meeting. We talk about what’s going on in school. We also give awards to people for doing well in school, or just doing something good for the community.

Demetrius Henry

Education should be a team effort between the teacher and the students, rather than the responsibility of one or the other.

Yes, it’s important that students learn and take in useful information, but if they don’t, the teacher is definitely partly accountable for this failure.

Then there are the students who don’t make an effort at all and attempt to put the blame on the teacher. Perhaps if the student were made aware of what they were doing wrong, they could go on to fulfill the responsibility that should be taken on by a student. However, because just telling them doesn’t do much, perhaps teachers should try being just a little harder on the student, without taking on too much responsibility or letting the student off the hook.

Devyn Manibo

If the student wants to learn, and is trying, then the entire reason that the student is failing is because of the teacher and the parent. The parents need to help out the student if he or she is struggling and can’t find the help they need at school. The teachers need to make sure that no one is left behind, and not have the rest of the class learn while one person doesn’t. When the student does all they are capable of doing, it is no longer their fault if their grades are low.

However, if the student doesn’t want to learn, no matter what you do, they probably won’t try to learn, and not learn. No matter how hard the teacher and parents try, the student will most likely keep the same mind set. It’s up to the student to want to learn.

I don’t think there is any way to change the performance and effort put in by students. People’s minds will always be how they are, and if people’s minds are programmed to let a few things slide, and not strive to be an A+ student, then there is nothing we can do about it.

Hart Welles

Teachers can only do so much to help students. Students cannot be expected to learn anything if they try to leave everything up to the teacher and they depend on the teachers for 100 percent of their knowledge. Students have to take part in the education process as well. They have to show their interest, be able to participate, and communicate with their teachers. They have to be willing to take on the responsibility. I believe we should let students be aware of how important it really is for them to be responsible for their education. Once they know how important it really is, perhaps they will want to take on the responsibility. After that, it’s up to them.

Jillian Colasurdo

In my opinion, students are 75 % responsible for their education. I believe this is so because I try to listen, pay attention, and take notes, but I get distracted. I don’t always do my best. Sometimes, I do, but in the end, that’s my choice.

Teachers bear 25 % of the responsibility. Teachers have to give us the information on the subject they teach, but they could do more. Teachers could help us more when we’re struggling. They could find different ways of teaching material so that everyone could learn, and it wouldn’t be boring. Also, it helps when teachers are enthusiastic about what they teach.

Joshua Ford

I think my responsibility in terms of education is everything because I, as a student, have to do the work in order to get a good grade. Also, I as a student also have to do the work to further my education, and it’s our role as students to listen and learn.

I think teachers play an important role because they are the ones who give us the work and teach us. I think teachers should play the role of helpers. They help us with what we don’t understand. They also need to be clear about their own roles. Teachers are not friends. In fact, if a teacher acts like a friend then their students may wind up respecting them as a friend but not as a teacher.

I think the schools should reward the students more, even if it is for little things, so that the students have something to motivate them to do the work. For instance, I got a reward for putting effort and work in American history. I also got a reward for showing a new student around at my school. This motivates me to keep doing good work.

Jude Nwabueze

I believe education is 25 percent the teacher’s and 75 percent the student’s responsibility. Teachers play a big role in our education because, in addition to our parents, we need someone to push us in our schoolwork. But I think they should not only focus on our school work, but how hard we go about doing our school work, and how much effort we put into it.

Kathy Andujar

The extent to which I am responsible for my education is fifty percent. I think this because the teachers give us the work, but then we have to make sure we do the work. Personally, I hate work, but I have to get it done. In order to achieve what I want, to realize my dreams, I have to work. I want to be an obstetrician. I like the type of work that they do, and I’m willing to work hard to make that happen.

The role that teachers play is not just about giving information. It’s also their job to make sure we understand the information they give us. They don’t always do that. Teachers need to check with students to see that they understand. If they don’t, then it’s the teacher’s responsibility to review the material until they do. Teachers also need to be direct with students. They need to tell them, “I’m sick of you talking. I’m trying to do work, so sit down and do your work.” This may not work right away, but it works eventually. Teachers need to enforce the rules–they don’t do this enough. When they don’t enforce the rules, the students take advantage.

Keseanna Bryant

I think it is mostly the student’s responsibility to learn and pass their classes. The teachers give me the information I need, but I have to take part and turn that information into an education. It is not the teacher’s job to try and cram knowledge in to a student’s head when they won’t make an effort. Part of learning is making an effort, and if the students don’t make an effort then they won’t learn anything.

The teachers should teach in different ways so that the students can have options, and they should follow up with the students to see if there are any differences in their work. The teachers need to encourage their students. And I think that the teachers should go around the classrooms to make sure the students understand the concepts.

I think the teachers should motivate the students and tell them why them why they should make an effort. The teachers should give lessons on things students can do to feel more comfortable, because I know that it is not easy to pay attention in class when I’m not comfortable

LaShawn Otha

I think that students should take about 60 percent of the responsibility because first of all, you’re the one who has to pay attention in class. If you don’t pay attention, how are you supposed to do the homework? That’s another reason students should take 60 percent of the responsibility: homework is your responsibility, not the teacher’s. If you don’t do it your grade goes down and you don’t want that. Also, studying is part of your responsibility. You have to do all these things so you can pass the class, and that is why you have the most responsibility. All the teachers have to do is teach the concept to you, tell you what you are doing, when a test is, etc.

Teachers in my school play the role of teacher and friend. What I mean when I say friend is that they talk to you like a friend does, are nice like friends are, and help you when they see you struggling like a good friend does. I think the teachers should keep playing that same role because it helps a lot.

To encourage students to take more responsibility for their work a school should have consequences and rewards. Like if you don’t do your homework, you will have detention, or if you don’t do your homework for a certain number of consecutive days you get a call home. It might work because who really wants that? An example of rewards is if you do your homework for a certain number of consecutive days you get a free 5 points on your next quiz. I would do my homework for that!

Maranda Rubet

A child must feel safe in his or her home environment before they are able to adapt to the school’s environment. If the child is neglected at home or is not equipped with a place to study, they will have a hard time doing schoolwork. Children with distant or neglecting parents are more likely to have social problems and do poorly in school.

I think that the teacher has a 25 percent responsibility to motivate the student. I also think that the parent has a 25 percent responsibility and the child has a 50 percent responsibility. The teacher must provide entertaining yet educational activities that keep students focused. These activities may include debates, open discussions, award ceremonies, or parties celebrating class achievements.

Marina Conlin

I think that students in schools today do not make enough effort in their schoolwork. They slack off, or do less than what is expected of them. This is a problem. I think that it is mainly the child’s responsibility to do well in school. The teacher isn’t the one who should strive to pass a student in his or her class. I think that it is 75 percent the student’s responsibility to do well in school, or at least pass a class.

It is only 25 percent the teacher’s responsibility to help a student succeed in school. This includes writing assignments, grading tests, and helping students who need help. It is not the teacher’s responsibility to chase after the students who need help, but rather the opposite. It is the student’s responsibility to find a teacher when he or she needs help.

Students need to put in a lot of effort to get the grades they are looking for. It is their responsibility to work hard, and not the teachers to spoon-feed the students all the things they need.

Nate Spilman

I believe that my education is 75 percent my responsibility. I think it’s 75 percent is for several reasons. The first is that I do most of the work. I take notes, and then I study them, so I can prepare myself for tests. Or, if we have a review in class, it’s up to me to be prepared, and pay attention. I also need to ask for help if I need it. It’s our responsibility to ask a teacher for help if we need it. The teachers aren’t going to know if we understand or not unless we ask them.

The teacher’s role is to help students when they need help. Teachers don’t always do this. Sometimes they’re busy with other students, and sometimes if you’re screwing up, they might not come to you in class. Teachers should spend more time with students one on one, and outside of class. Teachers need to participate in activities outside of academics, like recess. One of our old teachers, who died last year, used to play kickball with us at lunch.

At our school, we have an awards day every Wednesday. This makes the students feel good, makes them feel proud of what they’re doing, and makes them want to keep doing it because of the compliments they got from the teacher. For instance, we have a teacher who talks a lot, but he always remembers to give you compliments. That’s important.

Randy Williams Baisden

I think it is the teacher’s responsibility to teach us just because it is their job. But I don’t think the teachers have the biggest role in our education because they only teach us at school. It is more of our parents’ responsibility because they are the ones who teach us when we’re not in school. However, teachers are looked on as role models so if they show that they really care about our education we will start to care too.

I think in order to encourage students to take responsibility for their education parents and teachers should explain to students that if you get a good education, you get a good job. This should really persuade students to take responsibility.

Renesha Lee

It is 50 percent the teacher’s responsibility to help the students learn. At the same time the teacher may not be that into their work. Some teachers are into their work while other teachers are just there to get paid. I believe that if you want to become a teacher to help children with their education, then you should put your all into what you do.

It is important that teachers and students work together. If the student does not understand, then the teacher should work with him or her. If you work together, then you can achieve something in a day.

Ricki Symone’ Altman

I think that education is 75% up to the student, and 25% up to the teacher. Teachers are there to give out the information, but the students are there to collect the information. It is up to the student if they want to go above and beyond.

This year I had many teachers switching, and my studies became very confusing. I took it upon myself to learn. I went on the Internet to look up topics, and maintained an A in all my classes

In an ideal situation teachers should just give out the information kind of like dictionaries and students should absorb the information like the readers of these dictionaries. If kids had all the knowledge put in front of them then they would be much better at school. A little persuasion would always help as well.

Teachers should also give students a small reward to motivate them to learn, such as some mini Hershey’s candies. That way more people would try to learn and school wouldn’t be as boring.

Robert Dimatteo

In K-8, teachers and parents hold your hand to help you learn, but once you’re in high school, there is no more hand holding. It is all your responsibility because no one in high school is doing your work for you, or giving you help if you are failing. Students need to learn that they have it easy until they reach high school and college. All those mama’s boys think that they don’t have to do anything cause their mom will do it for them, but no. If you do that through eighth grade, it is going to be a hard transition from middle school to high school.

Before I was in eighth grade I had bad grades and to tell you the truth I just didn’t care, as long as I had fun. Then I went into the eighth grade and I realized that that I have to step up to the plate because I have to get into a good high school.

Ronald Reyes

I think that I’m 95 percent responsible for my own education because I feel that we have control our own actions, and we know whether we want to learn or not. Personally, I got tired of sitting and waiting on teachers because if I needed help they would say they would help me with it, but then the teacher would wind up working with someone who was struggling more than me, and then I got ignored. As an average student I got overlooked. So I had to help myself.

The teacher shouldn’t be responsible for the student’s actions. Teachers could, however, do things like split the classes up according to ability. They could also talk to the students and be sure that they’re learning what they need to know. Some people feel shy about telling a teacher, in front of the whole class, that they don’t understand something.

Samantha Neal

I take almost 100 percent responsibility for my own education because I’m the one who’s getting an education. I think that it’s important to do homework and class work, to participate, and to do the best I can.

The teacher’s role is that they teach you the material that you need. The problem is that sometimes they don’t ask the class if they understand the material, and they don’t care if you don’t learn the material. They need to ask students if they understand and review in case you don’t.

We as a community could encourage students to take more responsibility for their education by giving speeches, knowing kids’ weaknesses, and helping them understand the concepts.

Tejas Raikar

I think that the responsibility for my education is more mine than the teachers. But teachers can make learning easier by making songs for stuff. My old math teacher Mrs. Gadek taught us a song for adding and subtracting negative and positive integers. It goes ‘‘same sign add and keep, different sign subtract, take the sign of the higher number and then it will be exact.” It goes to the tune of “Row Row Row Your Boat.” It’s kind of lame but I remember it.

We as a learning community need to push students more and show them that where they could be if they do well in school, and that it is their responsibility to get there. Teachers need to tell students that they are there for us if we need help.

Tionna Simmons

I think that it is mostly a student’s responsibility to do well in school. The student needs to do their homework, behave in school, and do their work in class. The students also need to know if they’re failing in class. For example, if I were failing in class I would go up to that teacher and ask them if I can make up work to bring up my grade. Students also need to think about there future. If they get a good education, they can get really good jobs in the future. Parents should motivate their child to do well in school, so that the student has confidence in him- or herself.

The teacher also has an important job at a school. The teacher has to make sure that the students understand the information, and that they get the motivation that they need. The teacher should write up good notes for the students and prepare them for the next grade level. The teacher really needs to push the students to do their work and pay attention in class.

The community could help by giving the schools teachers that really care about the students, and teachers who can be good role models to the children. The community can also give the school good books and special programs that help prepare students for the next grade level. It should also give the school a good environment for the kids, because if the kids are in a bad environment they will be distracted and can get caught up in the bad things that happen outside.

Tori Santiago

It is up to the teacher to show the student what they are supposed to know and how to solve the problem. It is up to the student to study what their teacher goes over in class each day. I also think that it is partly the parent’s responsibility to push their children and encourage them to do well in school. After a while, though, students will have to push themselves to achieve what they want to while in school. Although other people like parents and teachers can help us, I feel that it is up to us as students to push ourselves to succeed in school.

As a larger community I think we need to give students incentives. At our school, we give awards every Wednesday. I feel like that encourages people to do better.

Tsasia L. Mercado

I say that I’m responsible for my education. My responsibility for my education is to learn the material that the teacher’s gives; I have to have it down cold. It is my job to do the work I need to for my future.

The role that the teacher plays in my education is to teach me what I need for my future. The role they should be playing, in a way, is to give me more. I, mean, teach me in different ways so that I can understand. I don’t care if it’s games.

I think that as a community we need to make education fun and better, and students will get more out of it. Also, everyone should have responsibilities within the community. It should be like their job.

Tyree Eargle

Teachers have to be willing to give a student extra time if the student is willing to give extra time. Teachers should never avoid a student or ignore their personal needs. When a teacher sees a child who needs help, they should offer help, not ignore a person, thinking, “They’re just going to fail anyway, so why bother.” Also, teachers should only go into the teaching field if they have a passion for teaching. They have to have a passion for increasing a child’s knowledge, not increasing their bank account.

Sometimes, you have to stop looking at encouraging students from an educational point of view. You have to try to understand them personally–to understand maybe what their home situation is. Maybe their home situation isn’t that great. They may have nobody at home to encourage him or her. They may feel as if their parents don’t care, so then why should they. A lot of kids know that their family doesn’t have the means for them to go to college, so they feel as if why should they even try to do their work. They don’t have anything to look forward to. A lot of kids have been robbed of their ability to dream because of this. They have no goals or aspirations. What small dreams they do have just become a waste of time. The educational community needs to give students much more personal support. That might make a difference, because you could build a child’s self-esteem. Then they could accomplish more.

Victoria Britt

I believe that my education is 75% of my responsibility and 25% the teacher’s responsibility. If you break up a student’s responsibility into three parts you would see why. One part of a student’s responsibility is their willingness to learn, one part is the student’s work, and the final part is their ability and willingness to seek out information and resources.

The teacher’s responsibility should be based on how they teach more than what they teach. For example, a teacher can spend two days on the basics of calculus and have a class that understands what the teacher shows them. Or there can be a class where the teacher spends nine days on multiplication and have a class that has no idea what’s going on. It all depends on the teaching methods. I think that teachers need to make their classes more active and fun so that students can participate more. A student who participates more will obviously better understand what the teacher is teaching than a person who doesn’t pay attention. For example, in science we watch Bill Nye the Science Guy because it’s fun and we learn from it.

The government should allow students to explore what jobs they want to choose and let them see the field. For example, I want to become a game designer, so I should be allowed to go to a company that designs games and see professionals at work. People might get inspired by the things they want to become, and work harder to reach their goals.

Vipul Dusa

I think that teachers have more responsibility for our education than we students do. We can’t tell our teachers what to teach us. They teach us what they think is mandatory for us to hear. If they [can’t] teach us, we cannot learn it, so it can’t possibly be our fault.

Not all teachers meet my expectations, not that they have to, but it would be nice if they did. I would be able to learn more and be smarter than everyone.

To make kids take more responsibility for their education, teachers should give us more freedom in the classroom, but not so much that there is chaos.

John Revetto


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: June 19, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 12, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 29, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 8, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read