Monday, April 26, 2010


Times have changed.

When I was in high school, I did the work that was assigned to me. If I did not finish it in class, then I finished it at home. End of story. I would not think of not doing my work. My parents would be upset and they would punish me. I would not think of blaming the teacher for my poor mark. My parents would laugh at me, then they would get upset and punish me.

More than once this year, I have received unhappy emails from parents who demand to know why I am giving their child bad marks. The parents accuse me of being unfair, doing a poor job, not motivating their child, and generally failing their child. Evidently, these particular children go home and tell their parents that they are doing poorly in school because I am a bad teacher. What these kids don't tell their parents is that they fool around in class, socialize, and don't do their work. The parents are quick to believe and to defend their children.

It is a bit insulting to have to defend myself when a student makes up lies to cover their own poor behaviour and performance. But, it seems, for many, that is the modern culture in which we live. Make excuses, point fingers, and pass the buck.

I have a son in elementary school. When he is doing his homework, I must frequently remind him to stay on task. This is understandable. He is a child who cannot perceive the long-term benefits of being educated.

My senior group of students ranges in age from 14 to 18. I thought, optimistically, and erroneously, that I would be able to give them their assignments, and that they would complete their work autonomously. I thought that, as teenagers, they would understand the benefits of educating themselves. Or, at the very least, they would be motivated to achieve good grades on their report cards. I thought that they would understand the correlation between working hard and achieving good marks. I thought that if I let them stand on their own, then they would learn to work independently, and they would have to take responsibility for their own successes or failures. For some of them, I was wrong.

Some students do not care whether they pass or fail. If I leave them to do the work independently, then they simply do not do the work. So, then, they get a failing mark on their report card, and they have to face the music. Right? Wrong. For some students, if they get a failing mark on their report card, then the parents blame me, the teacher. The student is not held responsible.


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