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By Rick Amburgey
Imagine that you walk into a restaurant. Before you are seated, the manager greets you at the door and requires you to show him you check stub. Based upon how much money you make, and therefore how much you are likely to spend in that particular establishment, he determines how much service you will get, the attitude of the server and he even informs you that there are certain items on the menu that you will not be permitted to order to ensure there is enough for their other customers.
The above example likely sounds far-fetched and completely unrealistic, but the same type of things happens in your neighborhood schools every single day. A teacher might see a student’s grades and make a determination – conscious or unconscious – that the student isn’t going to succeed and their time would be better spent helping another student.
I cannot comprehend why a teacher could make such a judgment call instead of working harder to make sure they reach the child. After all, we do know the statistics now – one ineffective teacher can set a single student back as much as four years. One thing I have learned in my teaching career is that any problems in the classroom are not the student’s fault. I firmly believe that every single student has the ability to learn given a good teacher and the proper atmosphere.
I remember times when I was in school that I felt like I did something wrong because I didn’t understand a concept or I scored poorly on a test or quiz. I certainly didn’t have the audacity at that point for me to point a finger at the teacher and chastise them for not properly teaching me the content. Through the years and through my own education, I have learned that it is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure I master all the content in that class. It doesn’t mean that they give me the information and I absorb as much as I can.
I believe that every school in this country should adopt a policy where they will not accept anything below a “B”. If a student scores an unsatisfactory grade, that shows the teacher what that particular student understand and the part of the unit they have not yet masters. A teacher should have to re-teach that material to the students who need the extra reinforcement.
This makes perfect sense because learning is much like climbing a ladder – it is a series of small steps that build on each other. If you are climbing a ladder and you miss a step, there is a much higher probability that you will fall trying to make the next step. At the very least, it will be more difficult for you. Similarly, if a student does not understand one concept, it will be almost impossible for them to understand a more difficult concept that builds on what was learned in the prior lesson.
I know what I am suggesting puts additional work on the teachers. It is our duty as educators and it is part of the promise we made to the communities and school districts we serve when we agreed to be a teacher. I know this means getting to the school early. It means staying late after school and working with students one-on-one. It means making regular calls and emails to parents to make sure they are aware what is going on in the classroom. It may even mean going to school on a Saturday morning to work with students that need additional help. It may even mean going to the students’ home to work with them or chat with a parent. No one ever said it would be easy. It is our responsibility and our duty.
Parents must be a part of the equation as well. If the parents, teachers and school officials work together to ensure a complete education and a truly individualized education for every child, students would excel to new heights.
Once we let the children know that we believe in them and we will not give up, they will believe in themselves and they will work harder. We must be sincere and it must be a team effort.
There will be hard work ahead. Aren’t your children worth it?
Rick Amburgey is a former newspaper editor. He currently teaches in western Kentucky and is assistant editor of Strum Magazine, based in Nashville, TN. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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