Pass or Fail: A Teacher’s Responsibility Beyond Academics
In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.
While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?
Beyond academic knowledge, what is a teacher’s responsibility in classrooms? What life skills are needed and which ones actually help prevent retention?
An awareness of how to teach children skills for healthy relationships and conflict resolution is crucial to successful academic teaching as well as moral teaching. What part of the challenge of teaching healthy relationships lies in is creating a different power dynamic within the classroom. The norm in traditional authoritarian classrooms is an imbalance between children and teachers, with teachers having to manage the imbalance between their power and their relatively powerless charges.
Aaronsohn thinks it inevitable that children find themselves learning through something of a “hidden curriculum” because of this power imbalance. This learning is based on their inability to negotiate their ideas or feelings, and especially on the difficulty, they experience in having their needs met in any functional way.
Although it is unconscious in most instances, teachers feel pressured to adhere to administrative standards, forcing children to produce “work” and exhibit “behavior” within parameters that are perhaps too narrow to be functional. This inevitably leads to more frustration and anger between teachers and their students in a traditional classroom setting. This is not an environment that can be conducive to learning or positive interactions between teachers and students.
The alternative approach Aaronsohn outlines depends on a basic philosophy of unconditional positive regard. In other words, it is helpful to work on developing a model in the classroom that builds the confidence of students, not only in their teachers, through positive reinforcements, but also through the development of methods to achieve emotional balance and honesty within the classroom. Under this scenario, teachers model conscious patterns of empathy, impulse control, and anger management.
It is especially useful to use an approach of unconditional positive regard in classrooms dedicated to special education. Unconditional positive regard helps children with social or emotional maladjustments deal with frustration while enhancing coping strategies like developing an internal locus of control and a healthy, realistic sense of personal efficacy.
The ultimate competency for a qualified teacher, then, is the ability to instill enthusiasm for learning for the sake of learning. Yes, students should be encouraged to prepare themselves for a career, preferably also for higher education as well as a high-level job. The competence of teachers might well be measured not only on how well they manage to establish this state of preparation, but also on how well they combine this single focus with a broader interest in and enthusiasm for learning. The exceptional teacher produces (or unleashes) naturally inquisitive minds.