WARNING: This post might challenge some of your views on the responsibility we have for failing students
From Simplifying Response to Intervention: Four Essential Guiding Principles (Baffum, Mattos, and Weber)
It is disingenuous for a school to claim that its mission is to ensure that all students learn at high levels, yet allow its students to choose failure. Unfortunately, at the secondary level, it is all too common for students to be “offered the opportunity” for help. But if a schools gives students the option to fail, is the school teaching responsibility or merely punishing students for not already possessing the skill? By “offering” help, the school expects students to either have an intrinsic love of learning or to fully grasp the lifelong benefits or life-damaging consequences of not succeeding at school.
I hear occasionally from teachers that we need to teach kids “responsibility” and we can’t force them to learn if they don’t want to. This line of thinking bothers me a great deal as places the burden of being eager to learn on the student. Some kids place “learning at school” very low on their priority list. We must acknowledge that rather than disregard it with “he/she never came and asked a question.” If we are being honest with ourselves, we know exactly which kids need the help but won’t outwardly seek it. We know which kids won’t ask questions when they have them, and which ones won’t make an effort to turn in assignments that they’ve missed. It’s not that they are incapable of seeking help, asking questions, and turning in assignments. But by stating that “help was offered but not taken” we do not absolve ourselves from the responsibility to reach these students.
I am putting this in blog format to hold myself accountable as the end of the year approaches, but anyone who would like to join me is welcome. I want to make a commitment to those students that struggle but don’t know how to seek help: my job is not to teach students, but to make sure that they learned. I want to do better at addressing those kids in my classroom.