What’s his problem?

Because blogging is cheaper than therapy…I just need to clear my head of something…

He doesn’t do his homework.

She just sits and does nothing.

He doesn’t ask any questions.

She doesn’t pay attention.

He was offered extra help and did not come back.

She was given a study sheet didn’t use it.

He just doesn’t care.

She should just get an F and learn her lesson.

What’s his problem?

What’s her problem?

I have sat through hundreds of meetings as a middle school teacher in which the above lines have been spoken.  We spend countless hours trying to get kids to conform to what we want them to do.  If kids do not do what we want them to do, then they have a problem.

“Schools that are set up to be boring do damage to kids.”

I wish just once at a meeting the tables were turned and the kid took over, looked at the teacher and administration, and asked, “What’s your problem?”

I have never met a kid who walked into school hoping the day will suck and hoping they will fail.  I have never met a kid that hoped to live a mediocre life.   I have never met a kid that when given an opportunity to do something exciting doesn;t want to do it.  I have met kids who after spending years protecting themselves in a system that targets them as the problem might not jump immediately at the chance to do something exciting.  The protective wall the psyche takes years to build does not crumble in a day, and sometimes it takes years to undo what school has done to kids.

It is getting more frustrating as we now are two years into our “common core” aligned curriculum that is centered around collecting data so that we can identify which kids have problems.  Gone are the days when I could sit with a kid and say, “What I am doing is not working for you. Let’s figure something out that will.” I find myself more and more trying to figure out ways to get kids to do certain things a certain way that I know will be weighed on some assessment.  It’s now less about getting kids to do incredible that they previously thought was impossible, and more about getting them to do what someone way outside my classroom thinks is possible that can easily be scored a 1, 2 , 3, or a 4 on a rubric.

I have my end-of-the-year evaluation in about a month.  If my kids do not get those 4s, then someone across the table will look at the data and ask me a single question…

“What’s your problem?”

My fear is that someday after I retire I will meet a student and they will ask me, “What was your problem?”  And I will utter that line that so many before have tried to use to feel better about what they have done.  “I was just following orders…I had to cover the curriculum at all expenses regardless of the collateral damage.”

I think after recently finding out that I can retire in five years, I am having a bit of an identity crisis.  A couple years ago I could have retired knowing that I make a difference.

Now, I am not so sure what my legacy will be…

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