(picture via Flickr: frozenchipmunk)
As we continue to work toward an improved–and more effective educational system–there seems to be a never ending gauntlet of hurdles to overcome. A common lament is that students frequently come to our classrooms (or our schools) without the prior knowledge they need to be successful. Most of us have been in meetings, or a part of discussions, where educators play the blame game. Parents don’t teach accountability. Elementary schools don’t teach the basics. Kids lack motivation and come to school expecting to be entertained. Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve…
In the February issue of Middle Ground (published by the National Middle School Association), there is a brief, but intriguing article by Meryl Geer Domina that addresses teacher responsibilities with regard to meeting students “where they are.” In the article, she states:
Teachers have no control over what happens at home, over how well families function; however, they can do everything possible to make the time students spend in their classrooms positive and productive.
I believe this is truly the key to moving beyond the blame game. It is easy to look at individual students and their lack of preparedness and explain why they are the way they are (i.e. it’s the fifth grade teachers fault, or their parents are to blame). It is much more difficult to assess where a student is at and then take the steps necessary to move them forward–regardless of their past or present circumstances. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to address areas of concerns in school or at home, but it is important that, as educators, we have a realistic understanding of our sphere of influence and we do everything we can (within our power) to have a positive impact on student development. How do we do this? As suggested by Dr. Greer Domina:
Take the time to learn about your students’ lives, their previous schooling experiences, and their learning intelligences. Then, adjust your instruction and discipline strategies.
Or…we can keep on looking for someone to blame. In that case, I say its the kindergarten teacher’s fault.