5 ways in which, we as teachers, fail our students

failing_student

Introduction

I strongly hold the view that teachers are solely responsible for the academic success of the students in their charge. This is a position I have adopted during more than three decades as a classroom practitioner with a penchant for research and reflection. During this time, I have observed and interacted with the good, the bad and the indifferent colleague in our classrooms. While the vast majority of us make a great effort to ensure the academic success of our students, there are those in the “stubborn minority” who do the exact opposite. These teachers fail our students. In this brief article, I wish to share five ways in which they do so.

1.  Absenteeism

Absenteeism among teachers is rife throughout the system. It is not unusual to have as much as 10-20% of a given staff out for the day, the entire day, every day. I challenge any school in this country that could boast of 100% teacher attendance on a consistent basis. If there is any, it is extremely rare.

Teachers fail to “show up” for a variety of reasons. These may include illness, personal business, workshops, and meetings, all of which are “legitimate”. There are also those who simply fail to show. Consider what this means for a school and classroom when even the smallest number of teachers are absent on a regular basis.

2.  Tardiness

Compounding the issue of absenteeism is that of tardiness. Several teachers arrive to school late. In some schools, there are teachers who “stroll” in long after the first bell, prayers, assembly and roll-call. They are hardly ever present to participate in the traditional routines that signal the commencement of each school day.

At some institutions, chaos ensues and persists at the beginning of each day as some principals struggle to establish order in the wake of absent and tardy teachers. Indeed, I do believe that some students see no need to   be there on time since “Miss” or “Sir will not be there!

3.  Malingering

This, for me, is perhaps the most annoying practice of all, malingering. Teachers are present but they “choose” not to attend to their classes in a timely manner. Instead of reporting to class, these teachers sit around and gossip in the staffroom; they huddle in small groups in the office; they stand around on the corridor or some other place; they pause on their way to class and take time to make or take a phone call, invariably on their Smartphones. Some even find the slightest of reasons to return to the staffroom and just linger until the bell rings to signal a change of session. One can only imagine the enormous amount instructional time that goes to waste as a result the annoying practice of malingering.

4.  Lethargic engagement

This is another way of saying that some teachers are lackadaisical. They go into the classroom and do little or nothing to effectively engage their students. They may scrawl something on the chalkboard then sit as their charges “take charge”. Some of them turn their backs to the class and attempt to fill the board with “notes”. They may even sit at the teacher’s desk as one half of the class crowd around them while the rest are left up to their own devices. Indeed, casual observation often reveals a teacher who refuses to or is unable to connect with the students under her care. It appears to be the result of lethargy. Hence, I refer to such behaviour as “lethargic engagement”.

5. Lack of effective planning and preparation

The best lessons are the result of extensive planning and preparation. Unfortunately, this point has been lost on many of our teachers. Unprepared lessons end abruptly or go long over the stipulated time. The objectives, if any, are never ever achieved. The classes tend to lack focus and both teacher and students show little or no enthusiasm during the session. Although it is a requirement that teachers write lesson plans, quite a number of them fail to do so.  Instead they appear to be guided by “old notes” in their possession. Or, they move from chapter to chapter in a slavish commitment to a prescribed text. In the end, very little is accomplished and our students suffer the harmful consequences

Conclusion

The essential role of the teacher in students’ academic success cannot be over emphasized. Unfortunately, there exist a significant number of colleagues throughout the system who engage in behaviours and practices that negate our mission as educators. I have touched on a few. In a subsequent article I propose to examine five other sets of behaviours among colleagues that are responsible for the failure of so many students to achieve academic success.

First published in the Mid Week Searchlight of March 17, 2015

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One response

  1. We are not our students’ only educators! Children learn from many other sources, we just happen to be the main sourc and as such should be working to the best of our ability to provide them with the best education we can. You must have taught at a large number of schools to have seen and to be able to talk about these behaviours as global concerns in teaching. I work as a primary school teacher and though sometimes there is tardiness, lack of reflected planning etc. there are many teachers who are often still at school late into the afternoon and early evening, come in on weekends working for their students. Administrative tasks have augmented to the point that it adds an hour or so to planning and preparation of lessons each day. Putting up displays, gathering resources, some of which we discover are unavailable, dealing with technology, which may or may not work, reading,implementing new curriculum ideas, setting out assessment tasks, as well as attending, in our case, compulsory 20 hours of PD a year not to mention the above administration necessary to run our school days/weeks need to be taken into account. This is a huge range of activity compared to the tasks of some other occupations. Not to mention pastoral care and dealing with family, parental and the student’s personal issues. Teachers, yes, do fall ill, go to professional development course etc but aren’t they only human! Perspective and maybe a realistic study at the very least are necessary when examining the behaviour of teachers. I love teaching and have taught for a number of year, realising that the expectations we have to meet have grown to a point where it is almost not manageable without forgoing family life and any leisure time.

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