Are Teachers to Blame?

I’ll admit it. I’m first in line to fault teachers — English teachers all the more so — on poor grammar, written or verbal, poor spelling, and lack of depth in their subject areas and breadth across others. I guess I got a little of the “teachers are to blame” gene from my mom, who threw a massive fit when I told her, as I was finishing up my senior year at Cornell, that I wanted to take a year or so off from pursuing a medical degree to teach.

“We didn’t send you to Cornell so you could become a teacher!” she yelled over the phone, seeing her dreams for me crashing down all around her. But when I published my latest blog post on why students need to work hard to succeed in both comfortable and uncomfortable subject areas — namely math — I got a lot of teacher finger-pointing in response. “My teacher did me a disservice.” Teachers “ignored me.” My teachers “let me down.”

And I’ll also admit, I felt a little defensive. After all, I hear it every day from my own students. “You don’t teach us,” they mutter under their breath, or sometimes brazenly out loud. “No one gets this,” individual students remark beneficently on behalf of everyone. And so I struggle. Every day. Every class. Every interaction. To figure out how to make the complex subjects of chemistry and physics both understandable and engaging to each and every student.

To the ones who are staring into their laps, attempting to hide their cell phone usage. To the ones using chemistry class to cram for another class’s test. To the ones furiously copying someone else’s homework so they can get full credit. To the ones getting a jump on tonight’s homework by —> Read More