We need to make things better

Phil Reed

I began substituting in the spring of 2010. Over that time, I have seen a decline in respect and conduct among some students. It is out of control.

Let me interject here, most students are not the problem and much of the conduct is mirroring society.

Having said that, we have responsibilities. I will address two in particular.

1) Educate. We are to educate to the ability a person is willing to learn. I see teachers, on a regular basis, working their tails off trying to reach students. Trying countless times to provide information that, frankly, some students choose not to receive. The problem, this is being done at the expense of other students who have already grasped the knowledge. What is the cost? By no means am I saying those students are expendable. But, what we are doing is not working. How much more could some students receive?

2) Provide a safe environment for all our students to learn. When our teachers are forced to stop their classroom instruction to deal with problems that are repeat and repeat problems, it is not fair to anyone. When we hear about students who are getting in the face of their teachers, even in the elementary school, that is a problem. When we hear about teachers being hit, that is a problem.

We can come up with all kinds of reasons and excuses as to why this is happening. As I said, much of it mirrors our society.

What we can’t do is what I am being told is happening. Coming from higher ups, our teachers are being told, you have to do a better job of engaging the students. To blame our great teachers for what is happening just isn’t fair or professional. Are there teachers who could try one more time? Sure. But to make a broad statement like I stated is ridiculous and unfair. It is just as unfair as saying that none of our Board members or supervisory staff know what they are talking about. Probably a few do.

Here are my challenges:
• Teachers — Commit to trying one more time to reach “that” student.
• Administration: Commit to be the earpiece and supporter of your staff. From the teacher who has it together to the one who needs just a little more help. When a teacher or substitute sends you a problem, handle it. If it is a student who never gets in trouble, for some reason, that day and that time, there was a problem. For the student who is a regular, that is a whole other problem. For that problem we should be trying to identify what is going on in their life.

• Superintendent, supervisors and Board: Untie the hands of your administrators. They need to be allowed to take care of the problems. They need to be allowed to create a safe environment. They need to be allowed to provide an environment where teachers can teach and students can learn. Don’t pit your teachers against students and students against teachers. That is happening. The students know what they can get away with. Don’t pit your administrators against their teachers or vice versa. We are not adversaries. You can’t do your job without a staff. One of your jobs is to create a good working environment.

Words of advice:
• Resist only telling me what I am doing wrong.
• Compliment me for what I am doing right.
• Share ideas vs criticism.
• Remember, the teachers are in the classroom everyday with the same students. How many years has it been since you were in the classroom, daily? Things have changed.
• Ask me, what can we do to make things better?
• What is working?
• What isn’t?

Editor’s note: Mr. Reed is a substitute teacher and writes from his home in Cambridge on matters of local interest.

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