The teaching profession, unlike many other professions, has no control in choosing its clientele (students). We inclusively accept “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Our students arrive in class with many variables that impact their ability to learn, both negatively and positively: intelligence level, social/economic status, mental/physical health, personality, home environment, temporary stressors, and motivation level.
At any given time, in any given classroom of 25 students, there are two students going through their parents’ divorce; one who is gifted; two with learning disabilities; one whose parent is dying of cancer; two with attention deficit disorder (who each have a personal behavior plan for the teacher to implement); one who is stressed because his parent lost his or her job; one student with autism; one student with English as his second language; and one with diagnosed anxiety disorders. The remaining students have intelligence quotients that range from 85 to 125 and various chronic and/or situational issues of their own, which may remain unknown to the teacher.
For some time it had been politically correct to accept that all students are different. (What a concept.) But then, Connecticut schools were to implement “differentiation,” which is tailoring the curriculum to meet all the students, in each classroom, at their varying instructional levels.
On the heels of this movement came Race to the Top and Common Core, the thrust to raise standards and require ALL students to meet the same educational performance standards, despite the spectrum of their unique personal variables. Finally, there are those who purport that Connecticut teachers must have collectively decided to stop doing their job, which was the only feasible explanation for the decline in student performance levels. Hence, came the push for teacher evaluation to be tied directly to student academic performance.
Teaching is considered a “helping profession” and for none of the other helping professions — nor for many professions — is this connection even considered.
Do we pay nurses according to whether their patient’s diabetes improved? Do stockbrokers NOT make money if their clients’ portfolio declines? Do doctors earn less if any of their patients died that year? Does your accountant’s rate go down if your taxes increase? NO. We see the futility of such a connection in these cases — so why not for teachers?
Why would we think that a teacher, standing in front of 25 young faces, could possibly be the ONLY influence on whether each student pays attention, learns and remembers the information presented that particular day and each and every day?
Theresa R. Averack is a school psychologist in the Cheshire public school system.