I was at a meeting this evening--one attended by teachers from a variety of levels. One thing that occasionally happens at this meeting is that a couple of the teachers will complain about students--that they are lazy, unfocused, won't do homework, have parents who don't care, etc. Every time this happens, I feel sad.
Don't get me wrong--I know that it's important that we teachers have safe places to vent. We have frustrations that are part of our every day jobs. BUT, and this is key--we teach kids, no matter who they are, where they are, how they act. There are certain things we can't control--their home lives, for example--unless we are willing to engage in creating programs and contacts that will intervene in society (which we absolutely should be doing).
But every day, in the class room, we do have control over a lot of things:
*We can try to make our curriculum relevant, supporting students as they make connections between what they learn in school and their every day lives.
*We can model and otherwise actively teach the behaviors/skills that we want our students to learn. For example, instead of bemoaning that kids won't read, we can try to teach them the pleasures of reading. We can find engaging books and take the time to talk about specific books in class. We can figure out what in a text will actually mean something to the kids we teach and focus our curriculum on that. We can model how we make sense of texts and ask students to practice making meaning. We can model for kids what reading adds to our own sense of who we are and how we understand the world around us.
*We can help our students experience the joy of learning--that doesn't mean we dumb down the curriculum, rather we help kids understand when they've had good insights, created an interesting sentence or otherwise done something well.
*We can refuse to give up, constantly reflecting about what works and what doesn't work and why. Then we can use our understandings to create better curriculum each and every day.
So, yeah, let's vent when we need to, but let's never lose sight of what we can do to help our students learn . . . and love it.