A co-worker and friend of mine posted a link that showed a group of three young ladies on the Queen Latifah Show. They were reciting a performance poem that dealt with a great many subjects from a teenage perspective. I will not pretend that I was not impressed by them. Their performance was well done, their message was well worded, and I know how much their words rang true to so many teens. I would have been proud for them to have been my students. However, one of the last things that they said really bothered me. The line was something along the lines of "The teacher never fails. Only you do." Maybe it bothered me more than it should, but I can't seem to get this line out of my head. It isn't just because a group of intelligent young ladies said it, but because the audience of adults did not dispute it. Is this how teachers are seen? I guess that I should point out that I have been a teacher for about 13 years or so. It is the only profession I have ever desired to pursue ever since I started college. I won't deny that I can often look at education through rose-colored glasses. I also will freely admit that I have worked along with teachers who should not have been in the profession, either through a lack of professional skill or a lack of interpersonal skills. I can say that I have been privileged to work along with some teachers that are dedicated almost to a fault. I have watched them sacrifice so much for the good of their students and never expect, and oftentimes never receive, anything in return. So where is this idea that a teacher is shielded from failure and it is all put on the student from?
I am certain that part of the answer to the question comes from the act that the performance was being given by teenagers. I do not, in any way, mean that as a condescension. The simple truth is that any teenager has not experienced being on the other side of the desk. I had not when I was a teenager, and I know that fact colored some of my opinions and thoughts of different teachers that I had. Experience often changes perspective. The three young ladies show a lot of intelligence, and I would hope that just as I respect their point of view, they would be willing to acknowledge and respect a point of view born of experiences they do not yet have.
While I can respect the point of view of these three young ladies based on their current experiences, I have a lot of trouble with the fact that adults in this country have followed a similar perspective of late. There are often editorials, online comments, calls to talk shows, etc. in which people speak as though teachers do great disservice to their students and don't care because supposedly the teacher can't fail, but the student can. I have read Facebook posts that have claimed that teachers actively try to undermine their students. I have heard far too often that teachers care only about collecting a paycheck and protecting their "lavish" benefits and will throw their students under the bus to do it. All of this is said because it is believed that teachers can't fail. They just fail their students instead. All of those that think that need to see me before I go to sleep every night. They would learn that they are dead wrong.
I have watched other teachers put enormous amounts of extra time and effort into helping students that are struggling. I have done the same. I know of teachers that show up over an hour early every morning and stay an hour late every afternoon to offer assistance to struggling students that want to succeed. They receive no extra pay for this and rarely receive recognition for it, but they do it every day, every year. I have seen teachers facing illness and injury that return to work sooner than is healthy for themselves because they want to be there to assist and guide their students. I have witnessed myself, every night, second-guessing whether I have done enough for the students in my charge. Yes, a student can fail. Their failure can show up on a report card or by not being promoted. A teacher can fail, too. Sometimes its by loosing their job. More often, it is by the worry they feel for their students and the gnawing sensation that even though you did more than was asked and as much as you humanly could, maybe you could have found a way to do more.
Is this how teachers are seen? Do we take the few teachers that don't show the skills or concern and paint the entire profession with the same brush? I hope not. If we can look at three teenage girls and see that they have a message that we can all learn from, surely we can look at our children's teachers and see people who aren't perfect, but that are determined