Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Role of the Teacher

The Role of the Teacher

What is my job exactly? There are many different answers to that simple question, and the more you think about it, the more you will probably add to my job description. Tonight, in a usually boring class, our topic of conversation turned toward the influence poverty has on our students' education. This of course lead to a discussion of the school's role in helping these students achieve in the face of such obstacles as poverty, poor nutrition, and trauma.

In the perfect education world that is often created by politicians or naively optimistic first year teachers, the school suddenly becomes a solution for all the world's ills. The teachers will stay on Saturdays, there will be extensive and effective afterschool programs, the administration will be shockingly supportive of all the teachers and students, the students will become high-achieving active citizens, and the world will be right again.

If this doesn't happen, the finger is usually pointed at teachers. Even I find myself feeling guilty at times for not staying after school to work with my students, coming in on the weekends, and basically giving my entire life over to try to "save" these kids. Overall, I feel like I am a good teacher, but one questionalways lurks in the back of my mind, "Am I doing enough?" Another New York City teacher/blogger addressed this topic recently in an entry that everyone should read.

It's been a year and a half so far, and though my understanding of the issues facing urban youth have gained a depth I never could have imagined, a feasible far-reaching solution seems further and further away. One thing I have come to realize is that the answer is not one person, one super-teacher, one amazing community activist. It is something that must happen on a larger level, and the only first step I know is to raise awareness.

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