However, I don't let students off the hook. Students, and the communities from which they come, also have a role in achieving excellence. In other words, good teachers are necessary, but not sufficient, for student success. What else is required?
Giving a darn.
Last week I wrote about Bill Gates and Eli Broad who think that high schools need reform because they aren't doing a good enough job. This week I read about a congressional effort to put more money into hiring better math and science teachers because they think the ones we have aren't doing a good enough job. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I don't think these experts get it. They want higher test scores from American kids, and when they don't get them, they continually blame those who are teaching the kids. If the kids aren't performing, it must be the schools' and the teachers' fault. They seem to never consider that maybe it's the kids...
There is a great misunderstanding in the debate over education that takes place in America. It is a misunderstanding that you hear almost anytime education is discussed. That misunderstanding is that it is the job of schools to educate children. It is impossible for us to "educate" kids. We can only give them the opportunity for an education.
It is the job of schools to try to motivate students, so we definitely bear part of the responsibility. When we allow disruptive students to remain in our classes and our schools, we are denying other kids their full right to an education. When we make it clear that students like Christine will be allowed to remain in our classes and school even when it becomes clear that they have no chance to pass, and when we allow students like Alex to continue to attend classes after missing twenty, thirty or forty days, we are contributing to the blase' attitude that so many kids have to their education. But we aren't the only ones who share part of the blame. Our culture with it's emphasis on entertainment and stardom (Did you see how many people tried out for American Idol?), parents, and the kids themselves are also responsible.
By posting this I don't mean to relieve teachers of our responsibilities, but to remind others that there are in fact other significant players that need to be addressed.