From our experience on our school’s leadership team, we’ve learned that teachers throughout the country face a wide range of professional and social demands. In New York, for example, teachers have to fulfill constantly changing requirements for the state department of education. These include teaching and training students for specific exams that are to be taken, creating a syllabus and other class materials in accord with guidelines, and managing their students’ behavior constructively and ethically.
Teachers also face regular, sometimes unannounced quality reviews and observations. Because these reviews capture only a random snapshot of what goes on in classrooms, they sometimes put teachers in a hard spot where they are accused of not teaching well even if they are the best teachers in the school!
In New York as elsewhere, teachers are also struggling to prepare students for new common-core-aligned state tests. Teachers have to figure out how to change their lessons so that their students will be more familiar with the content that’s on these tests. But the material is different from what we’ve learned in the past. So our teachers are dealing not only with the department of education’s mandates but also with their students’ individual learning needs and priorities.
Since both of use grew up in other countries, we feel we have a broad perspective on education. One thing we’ve noticed is that students in the United States are very different from students in Pakistan and India. Kids in America tend to take their education for granted and don’t always value it, whereas in other countries getting a good education is greatly prized. Teachers in these countries are treated with the utmost professional respect. In the United States, students fail to take advantage of the opportunities provided to them and as a result they often give teachers a hard time. They often disrespect teachers and fail their tests. Then they—and others—blame the teacher for their failures. We have seen students tear up test sheets, as well as curse, and talk back to teachers—and there doesn’t seem to be much that our teachers can do about it without creating more trouble.
Some students—and adults!—think a good teacher is one who allows students to do whatever they want—who turns a blind eye towards students who are disrespectful, ignorant, and disruptive. We believe that a good teacher is one who knows how to control the classroom, is strict when needed, and has the capability to speak up against the students who don’t have any interest in learning. For us, an excellent teacher is also someone we can go to, to talk about our problems or anything that’s on our minds. He or she is able to provide motivation to kids and help them learn to value the education they receive.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.