Heather Wolpert-Gawron

The Equation of Student Success Webquest: Top 10 Responsibilities of Teachers to Avoid Student Failure

By on December 3, 2010

I have written before in the past on various blog sites and networks about the vital equation that must exist in order for a student not to fail in our schools:

Family + Student + School + Policymakers/Voters = Student Achievement

Each variable is co-dependent on the other. Each link in the chain must do its part, pulling its weight for the goal to be achieved. To tackle this polynomial equation takes deconstructing its parts. Therefore, much like a Top Chef contestant deconstructs a grilled cheese sandwich to analyze its ingredients, I am going to break down our education equation into parts and analyze what each must contribute for a student to succeed.

So I’ve posted three articles simultaneously, a webquest of sorts through my blogs, covering the following:

  • At The Huffington Post, you’ll find my take on what the family and home life must contribute to the equation.
  • At The George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia site, I’ve written on what the student must bring to the table.
  • Here, you can read about the responsibilities of the schools, specifically those of the teachers.

Stop by each site and look at each of the variables. For without any of them, the equation will undoubtedly fail.

The Teacher’s Responsibilities

What’s rough about defining a teachers’ necessary contribution to the equation is that it has become an evolving job description, with obligations added to our plates without appropriate increase in compensation or the necessary ongoing training. Nevertheless, there are still responsibilities which make up the foundation of our profession and ones that we must be willing to adopt as the world around us changes if we are to really hold our own in the equation of student success.

1. Be experts at our content. This means continuing to invest in updating our knowledge.

2. Be experts in communicating our content. A good math teacher not only knows math, but can transmit their knowledge to students in a way that the clientele understand. A good history teacher not only appreciates the past, but can pass on their passion in a way that makes students appreciate it too.

3. Be up to date on skills students will need to know for their future. I’ve written about this in the past. Teachers must find ways to teach forwards, to teach in a way that helps prepare students for their future, and that often means moving beyond the methods in which we ourselves were taught.

4. Collaborate and model collaboration, for the future world in which they will live will not be an isolated one. It will be a global community that requires adults to work together in ways we cannot begin to predict. Cut the losses that go hand-in-hand with our inability to see the future, and teach an openness to collaboration.

5. Be a role model. Yes, you signed up for that.

6. Communicate with the student and the family in multiple ways, in methods that work for them and for you. You have email but they don’t? Find a way. You have given a paper to the student and it never reached home? Call until you reach someone or wait at the curb for an inescapable meeting at drop-off.

7. Continue being a student yourself, and model being a lifelong learner.

8. Make lessons applicable. Don’t be a part of the disconnect between school life what real life. Take time to explain the relationship and why what kids are learning now is important later on.

9. Be willing to adapt. We are in the business of teaching the group that is before us at any given year, and as times change, so must our methods and lessons.

10. Enjoy your job and your clientele. The minute you find yourself not looking forward to spending your day with those kids, find another profession.

For some teachers, this may seem obvious. For others it may be more than you bargained for when you signed up for teaching. But it’s the basic fundamentals of what we need to do if we are to keep up our end of the equation. And I’ll be honest; I think we should be evaluated on how we accomplish these steps. We should be held accountable for how we uphold our end of the social bargain. Even though I believe teachers and schools can’t be held accountable for other variable’s failures, we cannot allow that discrepancy to dictate our own contributions and efforts.

The Final Variable in the Equation of Success

Of course, the last vital variable is what we all, the voters and the policymakers who work for us, must do for education to succeed.

It’s important enough that I want to end each of my three posts with this challenge: make education a priority in the voting booths and the campaigns. Retired baby boomers can’t dismiss educational issues as no longer their problem to solve. Younger families coming up through the system can’t cut-and run from our public schools in their indecision of how to educate their own children. The problems that plague some of our schools belong to us all.

Public schools are a miracle of this country. The mission, to educate all for free, is one that anyone on any side of the political fence should be fighting for as a top priority. But it’s up to voters to send the message that it is important, and its up to policymakers to do the right thing despite party politics and lobbyists.

Cutting education will only cut the future of this country, and that hurts us all. With every vote that does not pass and with every “nay” on the floor, our voters and policymakers condemn our system to further failure.

The equation of student success isn’t about who is to blame. Rather, it forces us to ask the question: how can each variable that involves us all, better do its part?

In regards to what teachers can do to contribute to the equation, what would you add to this Top 10 list to avoid student failure?

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