Thursday, November 26, 2009

Do Whatever Is Needed to Help Students Succeed

I was recently at the Indiana Association of School Principal's fall conference. One of the keynote speakers was the author of If You Don't Feed the Teachers, They Will Eat the Students. The statement that rang truest with me was that we need to do whatever we can to help students succeed. Schools can have whatever mission statements and vision statements they have. But the motto of all teachers should be that statement.

So, what does this mean?

Success means something different to each person, without a doubt. Still, we can all agree that the opposite of success is failure. Therefore, any student earning an F in any course as a final grade has not succeeded. The question, at that point, is whether the teacher, the counselor, the administrator, or anyone else has done whatever was needed to help the student succeed.

When a student fails a class, it is usually because the student did not complete the homework assignments. This usually affords teachers an opportunity to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the student's failure, pointing out that the student had not learned to be responsible. But a very important reality of a student failing because he did not do his homework is that, often the teacher allowed the student not to do his homework. What did the teacher or anyone else in the school do to encourage or force the student to do his homework? Were there any calls to the parents? Were there any meetings with the parents and the student and the teacher and the counselor or the administrator? Was the student assigned any detentions for not doing his work? Was the student allowed to play sports in spite of not doing his homework? Was the student allowed to participate in any extra-curricular activities in spite of not having done his homework?

We need to do whatever is needed to help students succeed. If we are not, then we are allowing students to fail, which means we are allowing them not to learn. That is educational malpractice.

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