I named this column “Elevating Education” because I wanted to help build strategies and competences within teachers, parents and students so that we might somehow build a more effective educational system in Prince George’s County. I’ve come to realize that in order to build powerful institutions, some old age ways of doing things must be destroyed.
We all know the quote, “you don’t have to like me, but you have to respect me.” That couldn’t be further from the truth! Who wants to listen and learn from someone who doesn’t care about his well-being? Who wants to take direction from someone who yells and disrespects them all day? I believe students have very valid points: Many adults in the school building are not respecting their culture.
I try not to focus on the negative, but I also understand that in order to build we must destroy. As an educator in Prince George’s County, I have come across three types of teachers — the burn-out, the negative complainer and the cultural incompetent. All have very distinct characteristics, but they all hurt their students’ progression.
The burn-out has nothing to do with age, but the fire one has left for direct instruction. The burn-out may still love children but seems to be drained from all of the struggles and frustrations of the job. This person has watered-down lessons, lacks creativity and always hands out ditto sheets for the students to complete. Due to their frustrations, they are usually short-tempered yellers who constantly send students to the office for minor infractions.
The negative complainer is the most annoying of all the negative personalities. Every word they utter about the heavenly souls we serve is negative. Every word about the school is negative. Every word about the parents is negative. They normally blame all the problems for the lack of student success on everything and everybody but themselves.
These are the teachers who call students “ghetto, hoodlums and misfits.” The negative complainers usually roll in packs. They share their spiteful conversations with each other over lunch, at the copy machine or after school. The classroom may be quiet, but don’t be fooled, the students may not feel comfortable because they are afraid of the teacher’s reaction.
The cultural incompetent usually has a well-designed classroom, has passed all of their educational exams but has no idea how to deliver the information to the students. They can’t seem to speak their language or understand their culture. Culture is the driving force behind education and this teacher lacks what I call “with-it-ness.” This educator doesn’t understand youth jokes, music, peer interactions, neighborhood influences or family structure. Furthermore, not only do they misunderstand youth culture, but they also have no desire to even minimally identify with it.
Burn-outs have to reconsider their reasons for jumping into education. These educators may need positive support systems to help build that fire again. They may still have a purpose outside of classroom. Education should never be a pessimistic endeavor and the negative complainer must understand that. It should be based on positive relationships built by both the student and teacher.
The cultural incompetent may want to start eating lunch with their students, talking with students in their circles before school or visit their neighborhoods in the afternoon. This might help build more impactful relationships that will transition to classroom advancement.
In order for our communities to grow, we must be willing to flourish as a profession. We are responsible for self-growth first if our students are expected to mimic our ways. Educators must consistently evolve.