26 Comments

  1. Tracy P

    Yes, we have got to help students to find their passion but it is also our job to ensure that they face up to their responsibilities along the way.

    Teaching is like parenting in so many ways. "You have to eat your vegetables before you can go and play. You have to clean your room before you can go over to your friend's house." No matter how many smiley faces I made with those green beans or how much encouragement I gave as they were hanging up the clean laundry I washed a week ago and was still sitting where I put it on the end of the bed, it wasn't always rainbows and sunshine. But I was there for my own kids every step of the way, just as I am for my students.

    Students are our customers and we are in the business of ensuring that the students who leave our schools are happy, healthy and confident and ready to face the world.

    I became a teacher so I too could make a difference. I look for ways to let my students shine but I also ask them to help me to ignite that fire within. Two candles make a much bigger flame.

      • Tracy P

        Now how do we begin the transformation of a system that fails to adequately address the needs of all our children? One teacher at a time would be my answer.

        Our ultimate goal as teachers should be to do all that we can do to create learners for life who are able to follow their passions. I picked "c"! I see the myriad of flaws and injustices that currently exist in an outdated system and I spend many sleepless nights imagining ways to connect on an even more meaningful level with my kids. Isn't that what a teacher does?

        You did the best that you could with Ashley with the resources you had, making the school place he wanted to be, even if it was for just a single season. You reached out when no one else did. I suspect the experience made you a great teacher and even a better principal.

  2. Oh, George, I had so many Ashley's.

    This post had me in tears. I continue to hope for the day when teaching and learning are based on joy and passion and caring.

    Only then will children be given wings instead of anchors by the very system put in place to launch them.

    My Ashley was named Chris. He was action personified, and he commanded it like maestro. Beautiful, beautiful athletic ability tied to an inability to read.

    We worked for a year, millimeter by millimeter, to break that non-reading streak, and we succeeded. He was reading close to 6th-grade level when he left me. He even started to enjoy it!

    Then he left me, and I never saw him again. I doubt I ever will. I like to think he had teachers who understood his needs, and nurtured his fledgling literacy, and kept him busy in sports, where he shone.

    But I doubt it. It's sad. Maybe he'll remember that year when he shone in both courts. Maybe he'll remember for a while he was good enough to make it. Maybe he's thriving somewhere.

    Maybe someday I'll get over it.

    But we don't, of course. There are always more Chris's and Ashley's. But that doesn't make the original loss any less painful. Or the next, or the next.

    Yet still we trudge on, because that's what we are. We're working against the flow, but I have to think that at some point, that effort figures into the greater good.

    It's so uplifting to know there are schools like yours where changes really are taking place, and teaching and learning are being transformed into the marvels that they should be.

    My thanks to you for that knowledge.

    • George

      Thanks so much for sharing your story about Chris. We care so much about these kids that it kills us when we don't see them succeed. Hopefully people realize how much we truly care.

      Thanks again for your comment!

  3. JoAnnJ68

    I became a teacher because I didn't want anyone to have the school experience I had. My decision was made in the fifth grade, the worst year of school life.

    Throughout my teaching career my room has been filled with kids that struggled or were thought to be different. It was as though I would know what to do. I have had many successes and some failures but no one ever left my class without knowing they were loved and had a purpose in this world. No child would feel as worthless as I did.

    JoAnn

    • George

      We all have our reasons on why we became teachers :) Hopefully you will INSPIRE those that you work with to continue to lead the charge when we are long gone :)

  4. come on George… let's turn the world upside down. did you see Dean prodding Karl this week? why algebra? have you seen Sir Ken's youtube on assessing creativity.

    it's in your blood George. and it's doable.

  5. George, great post in my 30+ years of coaching football I had many Ashleys the only difference was the sport and the names. We need to find their passion earlier, because I feel high school dropouts are developed in elementary school. Thanks for a different prospective on this issue.

  6. I'm not a teacher, but as a public librarian (who happens to be married to a teacher), I often see the results of the frustration, and ultimately the rejection, of a system that penalizes for what students do not do well, but often ignores what they do well. We still structure education for the 20% that will understand regardless, not the 80% who will struggle because they are way behind or bored because they are so far ahead.

  7. Thank you for a powerful piece.

    I taught Wilderness Leadership at a community college for 21 years. My evolution as a teacher went something like this:

    1. I loved the wilderness and wanted to work there and share its wonder with others.

    2. I realized the importance of leadership, decision making and judgment as critical elements to success in outdoor careers and wanted all my students to develop them.

    3. I realized that the above skills as well as other "critical skills" (e.g.,critical thinking, creative thinking, life-long learning, organization, etc.) were essential to success in life and more important than 90% of the content taught in school or college.

    I posted a link to this article at: http://realworldlearning.wordpress.com/2010/11/01

  8. I don't think any of those choices would have helped Ashely. Perhaps not everyone is cut out for a formal education? Wasn't he using the school to get what he wanted too?

    I am not sure how we set C as our goal. How can we ensure our students are successful when we can't ensure our own children are successful? (I assume that we have more influence with our own.)

    Maybe our role is simply to give them a sense of purpose, a belief in their varied abilities, and options they can choose to be successful.

    • George

      We have students who are not cut out for the type of learning opportunities that we present them. I totally agree with that. However, we need to be able to work with the student and families to identify that earlier to ensure we are doing our best for the students. Your last sentence is great because that is HOW we can get to goal C. As much as schools can change, there will never be 100% success by our students. We do however have to raise the bar to work with all the kids we can.

      Thanks for your comment! I really appreciate your thoughts :)

  9. Moving reflection. I think we all have these stories of times where we thought we were doing what was best, while all the time failing the student. You are right, students passions should never be used against them as a way to make them do something they don't enjoy. Instead we should use their passions for them, as a way to get a better understanding of them and what makes them tick. We should use that knowledge to reach them in new ways that are meaningful for them. Here's hoping that more educational stories start to have the hollywood endings.

  10. Thanks for creating Why Did We Become Teachers? | The Principal of Change I’m loving your content. Would you do a guest post on a blog I help run? Do you believe which you could contribute? You’ll be able to look at our post types at http://listmarker.info/user/history/ and undoubtedly we would be thinking about having you post an write-up or two on our blog, what do you believe? When you are interested let me know via the contacts page on our site.Why Did We Become Teachers? | The Principal of Change is an fascinating name for a blog, keep up the effort, thanks, from $dreaming

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