The Most Depressing Truth About Teaching
Jun 17, 2010 Teaching 2568 Views
Teachers give countless hours to their profession. It does not matter if they teach in a private school, a public school, or in a homeschool. Every teacher gives and gives and gives until sometimes they think there is no more to give. At that point, usually the teacher will encounter a student who changes things again and re-inspires them to keep going, the child who makes it all worthwhile. But throughout the ups and downs of teaching there remains one vital truth that is the saddest, most depressing truth about teaching, and it is something that all teachers should know.
No matter how effective or how good the teacher is, there will be some students who fail to participate in the learning process. For some reason or another, there are always a few students who choose to withdraw or close up their minds to new information, and by doing so they reject the opportunities before them. I am not speaking about the students with learning challenges that must be overcome. That is a different issue. I am referring to the student who, whether gifted, challenged, or somewhere in the middle, willfully and repeatedly chooses to resist growth and learning.
When this happens, there are two responses that every teacher should offer. The first is the willingness to be available to that student if they return and seek help. Some will. Students who initially refuse to participate in their own learning may come around at a later date, and the role of a teacher is to be there if they do. That comes first.
But the second offer that a good teacher must be willing to give is the offer to walk away. This is harder because every good teacher has the ability to inspire their students or encourage them to do better and giving up is just not in the good teacher's skill set. But the distinction is that it's the student who needs the offer to walk away, not the teacher. If enough time and energy is spent using every tool possible to reach the student and get through to them in their academics and still they snub the teacher's instruction, then the teacher needs to offer the student "a walk." All that this means is that the teacher will still be there when the student is ready, but that the teacher will cease to do for the student, what the student is unwilling to do for themselves.
This is a painful process for teachers, but the end result is usually that somewhere down the road, the student will take ownership of their own learning, and while some ground may have been lost, they will have a greater appreciation for knowledge in the future. This shouldn't reflect negatively on the teacher, and while it is certainly a sad state of things, it is a true one. Not every student will be willing to learn when you are available to instruct.
Good teachers have come to know this the difficult way as they have watched more than a few very capable students choose to walk away. Don't judge your own teaching by the decisions that your students may make to walk away, but also never give up on the hope that they will return or seek instruction at a later date.