The Educator's PLN

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There has been much debate in education on who is ultimately responsible for a child's learning.  In a perfect world the parents would be the child's first teachers.  They would then work closely with the best educators in the best schools using the best curriculum.  The students would receive an equitable education in a beautiful facility and then attend college for free, or enter the work force or military with strong values and appropriate skills. If this were happening with every child we wouldn't have debate on how we educate our children in America.  But as you know, this is the exception, not the rule.  


 I don't mean to trivialize such a complex debate, but I will attempt to simplify.  It starts with 1 caring adult who shows genuine interest in a child and believes wholeheartedly that they can, and will SUCCEED.  This adult must then commit to doing "whatever it takes" to help that child succeed.  This adult can be a parent, teacher, sibling, friend, relative, administrator, grandparent, etc.  An emotion we don't often talk about in education is LOVE.  We have too many children in our schools that don't feel loved.  This 1 adult offers this through caring, sharing and advocating for the child.  My personal education philosophy is to treat each child as if they were my own.  That means care for them, love them, discipline them and treat them with respect.  If every child had at least 1 adult in their corner, they could succeed.  Will that adult be you?

I can relate to children who may have it tough, and that is why I always knew I would be a teacher.  I was fortunate to have two loving parents, who instilled in me that school, sports and a strong work ethic were important.  I grew up in the projects on government cheese & food stamps.  But I was happy and enjoyed school, because I was loved.  I would go to the school gym on Saturday's for "Boys Gym" where we'd play bombardment and other fun games.  I'll never forget when the instructor of Saturday school pulled me aside and told me that an EDUCATION was the meal ticket to success.  He told me to get out of the projects.  I remember asking myself at 10years old- how can I get out of the projects I'm only a kid?  Looking back I realize that by relentlessly pursuing an education I was able to reach my goals and enjoy a quality life.  I also realize that I was fortunate enough to have more than 1 adult care about me.  I wasn't concerned with my socio-economic status, how nice my school building looked, or how many great teachers I had.  I was intrinsically motivated to succeed because people I trusted and respected valued education & did "whatever it took" to make sure I understood that.  

Imagine how many children out there have NO adult support, attention and love?  I hope that after reading this you can think of a child who may need your attention, support and love and become the 1.

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Comment by Tanya Horton on February 14, 2012 at 1:04am

Hi Bill: Thank you for responding to my questions and concerns.  I agree it is unrealistic to think one teacher can meet all the needs of every student in the classroom.  On a daily basis, many teachers spend hours working beyond their contractual hours to meet the needs of their students.  So, I believe teachers are doing all they can.  But, I think sometimes others forget the increased demands and expectations teachers are facing.  Then add on the complexity of other factors like no home support, increased class sizes, inclusion, language issues, and a higher percentage of students performing below grade level, and the classroom teachers’ responsibilities become even greater.

So, I believe the issue is bigger than one teacher and one classroom. I agree teachers can no longer work in isolation.  We need to utilize our school community in very unique ways.  Over the years, my school has fostered a community that extends beyond just the classroom. We have an awesome counselor that goes beyond her job responsibilities (small support groups, makes sure students get adequate food, clothing, and support from other organizations) to help meet our families’ needs. Sadly, our school counselor is the exception and not the norm. We just currently do not have adequate resources to support “all” the needs of our students.  Due to the school district’s budget cuts, we have one psychologist, one nurse, and other support personnel that are shared among two or more schools.  So, this has become a challenge for us to get the adequate support we need. 

I teach at an inclusive school. This year all the IEP students in 5th grade were put in my classroom. I questioned this at the beginning of the year. I was told this was the easiest way for one special education resource to manage supporting all 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade IEP students.  The special education resource only comes into my room one hour a day.  But, many days she's pulled for other meetings. So, that takes away from meeting students’ needs.  I don’t know if this is just unique to my school district and our school’s student population.  But, I feel many of these issues and concerns are beyond my control.

Comment by Bill Burkhead on February 12, 2012 at 4:16pm

Hi Tanya:  thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and enter a thought provoking comment.  My wife is a 5th grade teacher and had very similar questions and concerns.  My hope is that people realize the difficult situation most educator's find themselves in trying to save "all" children.  I don't think that is realistic, but believe it is our responsibility to do all that we can.  That being said, I believe a school community should stand by the teacher and assist in providing love and support for all students.  An example would be a child study team where children in need are identified and a variety of adults pitch in to support the classroom teacher.  These adults can be counselors, school psychologists, other teachers, school nurse, coaches, administrators and paraprofessionals.  The school community could assist in connecting the student with local youth activities and programs for after school support.  The reality is that all children do not have a safe and nurturing home life, where parents are actively involved in their lives.  This is when the school becomes the home for these children.  It is our job to do what we can to help by using every resource we have.     

Comment by Tanya Horton on February 12, 2012 at 2:17pm

As I read your post, it echoed back to me what I tell my own students. I teach and treat them like they are my own children. Sometimes I feel they have it better than my own children because they get more out of me throughout the school time.

Growing up, I was blessed to have more than one teacher that showed an interest in my success. But, I also had an inner drive to get out of poverty (mentally and financially). Many of the students I teach, do not have that one adult to love them unconditionally, encourage, and believe in them. I teach 27 5th graders (including special education students) and it seems more the norm than the exception, that many of my students do not know the value of their education and get no support outside of school. So, what I struggle with is how am I suppose to be that one for all these kids.  I have no aide and just not enough time in the day to give them all the love and attention they so desperately compete for throughout the day. Many colleagues have told me you have to pick and choose because you can't save them all. I leave most days totally drained from giving of myself. My question is how do you keep the balance as a teacher with so many demands and expectations put on you for your kids to succeed?


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