This is a subject that I have given a lot of thought about and it is something that needs to be discussed. It is also an issue that we could write a book about, but I am going to only skim the surface of.
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with another teacher about a student and it was evident that that teacher had given up on that student. To be blunt it pissed me off and I had to tightly control myself to maintain a collegial relationship with this other teacher who I have to work with almost daily. I have gone back and I have attempted to advocate for the student but the teacher had made up their mind and I believe there is not a lot I can do to change this situation. I have done some other things to support this student, but to me it simply was not acceptable and I still find it very frustrating that a teacher has given up on a student.
  • Do teachers give up on certain students in their classrooms, do whole schools give up on some students?
I believe that teachers and schools do give up on some students and that it is an unspoken epidemic in education. Look at the school drop-out rates that indicate that students give up on us, I have to believe that schools also gave up on them in many situations.
  • Are these students unteachable?
  • Are their behaviors such that they disrupt the learning of others?
  • Are their lack of interest in what is being taught so pervasive that it just causes the teacher to give up?
  • Have they intimidated the teacher into not trying to teach them?
Children have many reasons for acting the way they do in our schools, many of which are beyond a teacher’s or the school’s control, but negatively affect the students ability function in school. I don’t claim to have the answers for those questions or the reasons why students act badly in our classrooms, just like I don’t know all the reasons why a teacher finally gives up on a student.
The ramifications of teachers and schools giving up on students does affect them the remainder of their lives. We must make our classrooms and schools a safe haven for all students, we have to show them that they are respected and valued even if we don’t agree with them, and we must continue to extend our hand to help them up when they have fallen (even if it is countless times).
I know that many or even most teachers go above and beyond what could be expected to try to connect with students who don’t want to be in school and think that being there is a waste of time. Then there are more teachers than we want to admit who give up all to readily on students that do not meet their expectations of how or who students should be in “their” school.
We are paid professionals that are trained to teach all children, not just the ones who look like us or the one’s that like school and are good at it. I will admit that with some students it would be much easier to simply say “leave” and don’t bother to come back. What does that teach the student? Do we really know?
It takes a lot of time, effort, patience and yes often bravery to continue to work with some students. Those students will try every method they know to push you away up to and including violence if they believe you are getting too
close. It is much easier to give up and just let them walk away and yet we can’t in good faith continue to do that.
Does this mean we can “save” all of our students…unfortunately that is not reality, there are going to be some students who are too damaged, violent or disruptive to others that they can not be successful in our schools, but I do believe that in many instances that some schools and teachers give up too soon on some of their students. If we can “save” or salvage just a small number of these students, it will make a difference in many, many more lives than we can imagine.
I have to ask, but I don’t really expect an answer, except to yourself.
  • Have you ever given up on a student? Why?
  • Do you know how your choice affected that student?
  • Was someone else successful, did you look at what that person did? Did you talk about it or did you just let it go?
I have many more questions that I want to ask, but I am running out of space to ask them, but I will ask one more question on this topic.
  • What do we do when we see another teacher giving up on a student?
  • Do we jump in and try to help or do we just stand by and let it happen?
  • What do you do?
Our students have only one shot at being kids and it is our job to help them as much as we possibly can. Many of us do, but what can we do about those teachers who give up too easily or too soon on a student?

Have you made a difference today? How?

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