Monday, June 22, 2009

Iam An Optimist

I've got a problem. In today's climate of education, it can be very easy to focus the short comings of teachers, and students. I feel like many of the educators I know in my life, have a grim outlook on the direction that education is heading. In conversations, I often find myself being the person that is defending the future of education, and thus I become labeled an "optimist". I feel like today's educational system, teachers, and students are not given enough credit. While it's easy to focus on the negatives, I still hold the view that there is a ton positives going on around us today.

Today I heard an educator presenting a case to other teachers that we need to force our students to be more realistic about their future. This person continued to say "not everyone is going to be a doctor....we need to stop letting them think they will be." I really took offense to this statement.
I believe that we should not try to stifle our student's dreams, but rather encourage them to dream.
As educators, we like to believe we are an excellent at assessing talent and ability in our students, but why do we feel the need to tell students what is best for them? While I do believe that teachers serve as a valuable resource for students, I hate to hear teachers try to label how successful or non-successful they will be. Sometimes we see that those students we attach the non-successful labels to, sometimes they turn out to prove us wrong by breaking the mold.
I am one of those students.
Throughout my high school career I was very underachieving, and that's putting it nicely, I did not fit into the mold of the normal student. An appropriate label for me with have been amount to nothing. I come from a single parent house-hold, grew up in poverty, received free and reduced lunch from k-12, did not hold a high value on education, and did not believe in myself. I said that to say this, if I would have bought into the idea that I could only live up to a certain level of potential that was pre-determined by my environment, I would have never received the education that I have now and would not have the quality of life that I now have.

I believe that we tend to sell our students short on their ability. I am reminded of an old saying that was offered to me as advice when I was a department store salesmen in college.
Don't put a price limit on what the customer can buy.
Meaning, don't sale the customer something cheap because you think they can't afford it, always offer them a variety of options. I think this relates to the world of education very well, it is not our job to put a limit on what our students are capable of doing. It is our job to provide them with opportunities to obtain success.

So....what's the point? Not trying to be negative, nor am I looking for a platform to air my disapproval. As I have stated before, I am very much an optimist and I do believe there is a lot of positive progress that is happening all around me. I see college professors that are jumping on education + technology movement (see Dr. Pijanowski & Dr. Strange). I am also seeing that there are TONS of other teachers out there that are striving to become more than just a normal teacher. Lastly, I know that I cannot control the entire world of education but I can control my Sixth Grade World that I teach, and I will choose to stay positive.

Mr. McClung

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