Teachers Have to be Realistic

Teachers have to have a realistic view of their students. I remember a professor telling me, upon my graduation from college, that I would need to take off my rose colored glasses.  He was right. And, they did come off. More like they were smashed that first year.  A child with a life threatening illness, several suffering from physical abuse or neglect, and one the victim of sexual abuse. Parents that drank too much and threatened their children, a principal that had  a penchant for a pretty face, and a beginning teacher trying to get a handle on everything. My rosy world was forever gone.  But, I refuse to be 'career-hardened'. I refuse to stop caring and loving. It doesn't end with a hot-line call, or a meal, or clean pair of clothes, or even a hug. It never stops.  To say that these children have left a mark on my heart would be an understatement.

Being a teacher means that you not only face reality, but you embrace it. Every last dirty piece of it. You hug the child covered in dirt and lice. You call child care services and offer support. You pray for a miracle.

Not all reality is so stark. You have the mother of the most precious child on earth trying to convince you that her child "would never do that".  How I wish I'd had a camera to prove otherwise.  Or what about the time the principal made every teacher accept the blame for a student's missing assignments. She asked each of us to meet with herself and the parent. During the conference, she told the parent that we were at fault for her child's failure. It was our fault that her child had not turned in any assignments.  She then asked us to apologize to the parent for our failure. I refused to apologize. Instead, I told the parent to come with me to clean out her child's locker. I also suggested that she clean the child's bedroom, where I was sure she'd find more missing work. The principal was shocked, but I was adamant. I wouldn't apologize for something I didn't do. I wouldn't enable the child. I looked at things realistically.  Consequently, all the missing work was located, right where I said it would be, and for the remainder of the school year, nothing else was turned in late.

Looking at things realistically means that you honestly evaluate each student's abilities and performance.  Kind words of encouragement, but no sugar coating. Children will respond to honesty and encouragement more than empty words because they appreciate them. They can see right through a facade of false words.  Want to lose credibility with your students?  Lie.  Tell them they are wonderful just where they are.  No one has to tell a child how they are doing. They know. Meet them where they are and move forward with honest expectations.

Part of your job is to see a need and do what you can to meet it. We don't possess super powers, so don't promise what you can't offer.  Kids appreciate an honest effort.  Most of them just need an adult who knows them, believes in them, and loves them. Someone who knows that they aren't the best reader in the school, but they are doing their best. Someone who knows they only have one pair of shoes to go with everything, but it doesn't matter what you look like. Someone who listens without judging.  Someone who isn't afraid to love and give.  Someone who sees their future.

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