Does This Add to my Value as a Teacher?
I got this note after I told a former student to stop doing the drugs. It seems to me, by the ‘Thank you’ in the note, that I made valuable contribution to her life. But unless, after quitting the drugs, this student developed an obsession with becoming proficient in the California State Standards in English, the value that I added doesn’t really matter.
The majority of the students I’ve taught over the past 16 years have been labeled ‘at-risk’. They’ve scored far below basic on standardized tests and often enter the 9th grade reading at a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grade level. Many external factors contribute to their ability (or inability) to learn: drug use, learning disabilities, a family that’s never home, transiency, poverty, to name a few. Some of these obstacles have to be addressed before a student is willing or able to learn and with budgets cutting support staff out of schools, the responsibility of helping students with matters beyond the curriculum, rests almost exclusively with teachers.
Notes like this are common among the inner-city teachers I’ve worked with. Even the bad ones. I’m sure Rigoberto Ruelas‘ desk drawer was full of them. It’s too bad our politicians, our media, and our billionaires don’t take the time to notice.