The average person probably looks at the responsibilities of being a teacher as teaching, I mean, that does make sense. And, of course, teaching means not only instructing five classes daily, but also providing extra support for those students who need it, whether they want it or not! So, teachers have to be available for their students at times other than during classes. For example, we have a built in after school time that is especially geared to provide extra help. Regular dismissal is at 2:17, teachers must be here until at least 3:00. Our district also provides late bus for transportation home for students. Right there is a tailor made support time of 43 minutes daily. Parents don’t even have to worry about picking their kid(s) up, we’ll bus them home!
There are other tasks as well that attend to “teaching”, such as providing work for students missing school, modifying work for very low ability students who are mainstreamed, maintaining and publicizing grades, collaborating with other support personnel, and a host of related instructional responsibilities. A lot goes into teaching that the typical non-educator never considers.
But here’s where my philosophy broadens. Teachers, all teachers, have responsibilities that extend beyond their instructional tasks as well. We all have an obligation to provide extra-curricular opportunities for our students. I blogged earlier about stipends, what they do and what they don’t do, but I’m referring to more than that. If we truly want to provide all students with a thorough, comprehensive chance to “grow up”, we need to involve ourselves in much more than teaching.
One of our priorities is that students have a need to “connect.” Each one needs to feel a part of something bigger. Kids have to have a reason to want to come to school every day and, no surprise, for many students that reason is not academics. When bad things happen in schools, you usually read after the fact that the kid responsible was a loner, wasn’t involved in anything, kept to himself, etc. In short, the kid wasn’t connected to anything positive in the school. I am not blaming the schools for this in any way, but it supports the need to provide opportunities for kids to connect and our responsibility to urge students to get involved in something. The wider the range of opportunities, the more students will find a connection of interest.
As educators we also have the responsibility, particularly at the junior high/middle school age levels, to expose kids to different experiences. Kids come from a wide range of households, some that provide their children with a wealth of opportunities, but many that provide little. It’s not that we are replacing what families should do, we are complementing and expanding on what they do.
Another facet of my beliefs is that teachers, and principals, need to be seen as more than just instructors, that we also have interests and hobbies we enjoy. In effect, we role model behaviors that we hope students will emulate. By involving ourselves in opportunities for and with students, we are also showing that we have an interest in kids beyond their content/skills learning. In other words, we care about our kids as more than just students. We want them to develop in different ways, we want them to have fun in school, we want them to represent our school in different programs, and we enjoy not only the activities, but also interacting with them!
Lastly, I firmly believe that, as educators, we have the responsibility to help kids grow physically, affectively, emotionally, and socially. We certainly have academic growth as our priority, but we need to attend to the many other aspects of growth that all students will experience. Many of the best developmental learning opportunities for these areas are not found in the classroom, but instead are found in clubs, events, and activities that create and call for different expectations for interactive behaviors from children. It is these different interactions that provide excellent growth opportunities for kids. And we are being remiss if we don’t recognize these needs and provide for them.
Good schools offer a wide range of experiences and opportunities for their students. And, good schools have (a majority of) staff members who recognize this crucial facet of education and who take an active role in providing for the comprehensive development of children.
Based on my experiences, that’s my perspective.