I absolutely love my students. Like many of you, I don’t stop thinking about them, praying for them or planning activities that will further their learning the moment I step out of the school building. There are days when I wish I could take a few of them home with me and take away the hurt they feel or wave a wand and magically make little Johnny the highest achieving student in his classroom. I wish I could do a lot of for them, but over the years I’ve realized that I can’t do everything. Some things are just out of my control (gasp! – type-A personality here). I’ve learned that students are at their best when the responsibility is shared. The three most important team members are often the educator, the parent and the student.
As the experts on speech and language disorders, it makes sense that once we have a student on our caseload, we are to take responsibility for their progress. It often becomes all too easy, however, to start placing blame on other factors when a student transfers in 3 grades behind or when the realization hits that little Mckenzie has a vocabulary similar to your own 2 year old. Whatever prior experience that student has had, he is now ours and from this point going forward, it is our responsibility to ensure progress. The fact is, every student can make progress, even small progress, and we should be constantly evaluating our methods to ensure the graph is heading in the positive.
This responsibility has weighed no more heavily on me than when I became a parent myself. The idea that it is ultimately my responsibility to prepare my children for life and grow them into happy, self-sufficient adults can be daunting at times. However, there are just some things a parent is better equipped to do than a teacher and we need to respect those boundaries. This is a hard one for me as I sometimes want to do it all!
A parent, for example, has more casual interaction with their children and has opportunities to be teaching them through real-world examples, which unfortunately, is hard to do behind the four corners of our therapy rooms. It is essential, then, that we are providing guidance and opportunities on how to facilitate this real world learning. Even if some of our parents, never read our newsletters, progress reports or homework, we may just catch a willing grandparent or friend who catches a glimpse and is able to help out.
Parents also have the amazing responsibility of providing the opportunity and carry-over learning from school. This means requiring homework gets done and getting enough sleep and nutrition for the learning that takes place at school. Oh, how I wish this was the case for all of my precious students! It’s becoming more common in my IEPs meetings to hear parents ask that the school provide consequences to the child for not completing homework at home. As hard as it is to sometimes want to step in and help out, it is important that the school and home keep boundaries and encourage the parent to fill this role.
As much as we would often give ANYTHING to see our students succeed, both the educator and parent can only go so far. Unfortunately, we cannot care more about their grade than they do. Otherwise, all my students would receive “As!” I saw this post on Facebook the other day and it really resonated with me. There comes a point in every student’s career that they must choose to either value education or not value education. I remember this very moment well in my own life. I was in 10th grade and the material was getting harder. Up to this point, I sort of just “did school” because my parents said it’s something I must do. However, during this year, my parents went through some difficult life events and couldn’t exactly keep a close eye on my grades or time. I had to choose for myself whether I would put in the extra work to float or throw off school and sink.
Just writing this post has served as a good reminder to me that the responsibility for our students is a shared one. To see the very best result, we must work as a team to control what we can and also to let go and see that others play a role. What about you? Do you see education as a team approach or something different? I’d love to know!