Monday, July 11, 2016

"If the student hasn't learned, has the teacher taught?"

I had someone ask me that the other day when I was extremely frustrated with the reality that some of my children are STILL not doing as well academically as I would have hoped they would do. (Probably not the best time to ask me a question like that), and in my frustration, it's definitely not the best time to answer it. Nevertheless, I will:

YES. It is possibly that the teacher has taught, even if the student didn't learn. There are many things to consider, therefore, it is not a clear cut answer, but it is possible.

As a concerned mother, I have gone to great lengths to ensure that my children have the very best possible education that I can give them; however, that doesn't mean they are all excelling. WHY? I ask myself? What else can I do? I beat myself up over it. How can I teach them better? I feel like I am failing some of them, but I cannot figure out what else I can do. (Now, let me clarify, some of my children did absolutely phenomenal this year, and all of my children have made progress since last year; however, some of them are still struggling).

First off, let me warn you that this is NOT going to be one of those posts where I point out all the benefits of homeschooling  or where I encourage homeschooling moms by pointing out all the things my kids are learning that don't show up on end-of-year testing. Nope, not at all.

This post is to share with educators, homeschoolers, and anyone that has children (or knows any children) about a difficult reality that has taken me quite some time to learn:

After researching every possible curriculum, reading reviews, talking with fellow homeschoolers, considering the students learning style, and so on, I invest thousands of dollars every year in books, school supplies, and my kids' curriculum (I have 13 it adds up fast).  My summer is spent planning the next school year (along with countless hours every week of the actual school year). I write up checklists, outline schedules, write syllabi, pre-read the information we are covering. I rearrange and decorate my classroom. I expand my classroom library. I research more hands-on activities to enhance learning, buy more manipulatives, and plan monthly field-trips. I organize and participate in co-ops and book clubs. I do what I can do to prepare for an awesome year. So, what else can I do? Where am I going wrong? Why aren't they learning more and learning faster. Why do they still complain? Why do they still need to be made to check their math before turning it in? Why don't they look up words they don't know how to spell? Why don't they follow directions (or sometimes even read them)?

Well, they complain because they are human, and that's what humans tend to do until they learn that it doesn't help, and then learn to control their tongues (which scripture tells us is the hardest thing to control James 3:8). Some of them are lazy which is a sin, and all of them are sinful (because we all are Romans 3:23). Some of them have actual learning disabilities, but some of them aren't learning more or learning faster because they choose not to put in the effort. Some of them just don't care, and no amounts of lectures, logic, pep-talks, rewards, or punishments can make them try. No, seriously, hear me out. Here is a smaller example:


I take my kids to the library regularly and try to encourage a love for reading. I read books out loud to them (all genres). We listen to books-on-tape in the car, I set an example of reading books for pleasure in front of them and talking them up to get my older children interested in reading them. I have hundreds (if not thousands) of books on bookshelves readily accessible to my children (no I am not even exaggerating; I am a book collector. I even used to sell books with Usborne for awhile). We have magazines, comic books, and graphic novels. Plus, if there is a movie that corresponds with the book, we let the children watch the movie after they finish reading the book as a reward. In school they do have assigned reading (obviously), but they also have allotted time where they can "fun read" (which is where they can choose the book they want to read). We also have "buddy reading" where older and younger children pair up and read to each other (older ones to model fluency, tone, inflection, and verify their siblings comprehension), and younger children to work on fluency and comprehension). This past year, my kids also had weekly book clubs where they got to pick out a book to read with some friends, and once a week, they would get together to discuss it. (During book club, my friend and I would make the kids hot chocolate or tea with a special dessert as if they were grown ups at a coffee house chatting about a book. Additionally, we have dear and devoted friends from church who come and read with our younger kids each week (to multiple our time). Plus, the children have reading programs on the computer which they do as well ( and WE HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING, and you know what? Some of my kids love to read, and some of them still don't.

It is becoming more and more apparent in schooling (and with everything for our children), we do not control as much as we think we do.

Even if we did everything right (which we cannot possibly do), but even if we did....children have their own choices to make, and we cannot put all the blame on the teachers and/or the parents. (I am not saying it's not ever the parent or teacher's fault, but it is definitely not all their fault all the time people). Children are not robots where we can program them to do the right thing, and they always do it. (Then again, I am pretty sure even robots malfunction). Children are not recipes where if we put all the right ingredients in at the right times that they will come out the way we hope.

With regards to schooling if they choose to skip the lecture portion (or just daydream during it), we can't make them pay attention. Even if we read the directions with them or to them, we can't make them follow them. We can't make them think or use strategies we have taught them when they choose to guess at the answers. We can teach them how to utilize a dictionary, but we can't make them look up words they don't know the meaning of when they are reading on their own. We can give them strategies to be engaged in their reading, plot out story graphs on the board, teach them how to use context clues to figure out unfamiliar vocabulary, ask questions, talk about main ideas, point out foreshadowing, author's purpose, cause and effects, sequence of events, and so on. However, we can't make them draw from ANY of that when they read on their own. It is up to them.

We can teach them, but we can't MAKE them learn.

The same is true of their salvation. We can teach them the truth about the gospel, but we can't make them believe it. We can take them to church, but we can't make them take the message to heart. We can give them advise, but that doesn't mean they will take that advise. We can help them memorize scriptures, but we can't make them take them to heart.  We can set an example for them and tell them to be kind to others, but we can't make them have compassion.  We can teach them how to be polite and have good manners, but that doesn't mean they will do what we have taught them.We can teach them right and wrong, but we can't make them choose the right thing for themselves.

So, all that is to say, it's not all the parent's and/or teacher's fault. The children have choices too. Let's stop passing the blame, let's stop beating ourselves up for the children's mistakes, failures, or inadequacies. Contrarily, let's be careful not to fall victim to pride when our kids do get it right or excel, and look down or judge others whose child or student didn't make the right choice because that isn't all on the parents or teachers either.

We can't save our children, only God can. Lord, please work in our children's hearts. Draw them close to YOU! Guide them every day of their lives, that they would stay the course and always keep their eyes on you Lord. Please give us wisdom as we teach and lead our children, and please give us copious amounts of patience, grace, and mercy.

1 comment:

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