Over the past several weeks, two of my former students have been on campus meeting with our current student teachers. Since both of these individuals attended Maryville College during the early 1990s, I was curious to hear what they had to say. As a teacher, I often wonder what students remember about my classes.
These former students reminded me of two terms I used, and still use, when I talk about the relationship between teachers and their students. Some teachers, when referring to the students in their classrooms, will use the term “those kids”. This term “those kids” makes it clear that these teachers are trying to separate themselves from their students. With this separation, teachers often form a list of the causes for the students’ poor academic performance in their classes. These kids refuse to study. They don’t care, so I will not care. They do not have parents that care; as a result, there is no one to supervise homework. They do not have a work ethic, and most of the adults these students know are on welfare. By using these excuses, teachers remove themselves from having any significant impact on student learning.
On the other side of the coin, some teachers will use “My Kids” when referring to their students. Several terms come to my mind when I think about teachers referring to their students as “My Kids”. One term is family; other terms are my group and my team, and we are going to learn together. But most important of all, these teachers assume part of the responsibility for their students’ academic performance. As I have told my students on numerous occasions, the only behavior you can control in the classroom is your behavior. Does your behavior in the classroom enhance or inhibit learning?
I realize that many of the demands placed on teachers in our current political climate are often unrealistic. You may be thinking, “Dr. Simpson, how dare you place the success or failure of the students in my classes on my shoulders alone! The community, parents, and students themselves must bear part of the responsibility.”
I agree! However, we cannot wait on the community and parents to change. This change will not take place. The next generation is the only group that can change. This next generation consists of your students. Effective schools and teachers are the only hope for many of these students. When you walk into your classroom tomorrow morning, start with a new “can do” attitude. I am your teacher. I know how to teach so that you will learn. Follow me, and I will change your life.
A few weeks back, I saw one of our teacher licensure graduates wearing a shirt with the following words, “I’m a teacher—What is your super power?”
Bless you my children.
Dr. Terry L. Simpson
Director of Teacher Education