The Washington State School Directors Association met before Thanksgiving with the usual lot of expert speakers on what it takes to improve outcomes in schools. It all made it very clear that our teachers truly have a tough profession. Speaking in isolation, their points might seem insightful and valid, but taken in totality, a mere mortal would be driven to their wit’s end. Let me play the mix artist here for folks to get an idea of the cacophony of messages:
• Disrespectful children protect hearts shattered by broken promises and misplacement of trust. Teachers must be patiently compassionate and understand the wall of disrespect will only come down by building trust with children.
• Respecting elders used to be the norm where adults could rely on some level of civility and compliance, but today any demand is viewed as disrespect and met with defiance.
• Children asked to read or solve problems can break into a tantrum of defiant behavior to show classmates that they are not to be disrespected by teachers trying to make them do something.
• Correcting inappropriate or improper language use or how clothes should be worn is to disrespect what is normal in a child’s home, family or community.
• Defiance is communication that reflects a strategy for protecting themselves from having others find out about their inability to read, write or do arithmetic.
• Defiant, unruly, disruptive and bullying children must not be expelled from the class or they will fall further behind in class. They must be patiently taught to understand the harmful impact they are having on others so they can become better classmates.
• A child must be taught how to deal with conflict. It can be a root cause of self harm and homelessness.
• Course work must be taught on pace so that a child can build their education each year, but for a child who is years behind, they must be accelerated with individualized support.
• A child named Tommy who now wants to be addressed as Tammy, she and her must be accommodated, but not in front of her parents, if that is stipulated.
• Teachers must have time to collaborate and work collectively to support a child’s needs, but must never share negative views about a child for risk of negative typecasting of that child, their family and any siblings that follow.
That is a snippet of the litany of demands placed at the feet of teachers. Now let’s assume a flawlessly patient and compassionate teacher builds trust and valiantly inspires children who are three years behind in reading and math to catch up two years of knowledge in a single year. Proponents for state or federal assessments will say the teacher is a failure because the students are not testing at grade level. Teachers are truly the superheroes of modern society. They are asked to do so much. They deserve much in grateful appreciation.
Hiroshi Eto, Federal Way