Why Teachers Should Take a Deeper Look at Their Students

Being a major in psychology, I can tell you a lot about how the brain works; I can tell you about cognitive processes, the different methods in which the brain stores information in your short-term and/or long-term memory.  I can also tell you about how a child develops; the influence of a child’s role models, environment, and education and how those life components will shape the child into the adult he/she will become.  A child has three primary role models in his/her life: parent or parents or primary caregiver, teacher, and coach.  Since I was little, education is something I am extremely passionate about; I have wanted to become a teacher since I was 5 years old and taught my invisible class in the basement.  Due to multiple recent events coming up on the news or stories people tell me verbatim about the millennial generation, I think to myself, how can I contribute as an educator?  Being a teacher, what do I need to do to make me stand out from the rest?  What do kids need that I can provide?  Of course, this depends on whom you ask but as someone who reads the news everyday, about events going on (education or non-education related), I find these kids need guidance.  

I am not sure if people realize but the kids we are teaching in the classroom now will be the running the country eventually.  The next generation will be holding jobs that affect us as older adults and elderly citizens.  So as educators, how do teachers create and better educate more equipped generations?  Moreover, which kids need help the most?  America’s youth range from kids who have unlimited resources and want to be the next Kendall Jenner or Beyonce. However, in that same generation, some kids live in neighborhoods where being afraid and being hungry is an everyday thing.  What are their motives but even more so, does that need for survival drives their behaviors?  The extremities within this spectrum astonish me but this is the current world we live in.  But how do we fix this?  How do we change a system that is so complex yet the concept is so simple?  How do we make a system that teaches all kids, regardless of status, race, gender, the same principles?

Teachers as a whole need to be better leaders and make better decisions.  Kids stay at school for hours of the day for multiple days out of the week.  Yes, teachers have the responsibility to teach students about reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, but what about respect, dignity, discipline, and ambition?  What about emotional intelligence?  Are kids taught to think critically and think about their actions thoroughly?  In my opinion, classrooms need to be based more on respect and value.  A teacher needs to guide and lead their students but the students need to trust and value their teacher.  In any classroom situation, no matter what socio-economic status, it is about survival-whether it is being the best in the class or getting through a school day. But consider this…when a child acts out in class, how does authority respond?  Should a child get smacked and spanked?  Should a child be put into detention?  Should a child be put into a class where the other kids have behavioral issues?  Should a child be told they are a good kid but have done a bad thing?  Should a child be told the value of life and how the treatment of others can directly affect where you will end up or should a child be taught to express their anger and frustrations right away, forgetting about the consequences?  How should authority convey the message that the child needs to act differently or does better?  I’m a true believer that in any situation, how the message is portrayed and interpreted directly impacts the outcome and future action.  Authority seems to think that punishing a child instead of trying to fix the problem is the way to go.

Last week, a 16-year old girl was jumped in the school’s bathroom.  It happened in the morning; right after the girl was dropped off at school and she died at the hospital.   Of course there will be a police investigation but what about the people responsible?  Have they been in fights before?  Is there a pattern?  Emotional and behavioral issues are topics circulating among school boards because teachers have risen concerned about them.  How do teachers deal with kids with emotional or behavioral issues?  Do they send the child to the principal’s office?  Ignore them?  Are fights purposely ignored because school officials do not want the school’s reputation to be put on the line?  Do teachers not intervene because he/she does not want to get hurt?  According to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, surveys about school violence were taken from students across the nation.  In 2011, 20% of high-school students reported being bullied on school property within 12 months of the survey.  5.9% of those students did not go to school for a few days because the student or students did not feel safe coming to school.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, there were 45-school associated deaths in elementary and secondary schools; of the 45 deaths, 26 were homicides, 14 suicides, and 5 legal interventions. These statistics were published in 2012, can you imagine the numbers now?  With technology and all the social media and dating sites, it is scary to think that a high school student is not safe at a place where kids come to learn and express their creativity.  In addition, for some students, it is the possibility that school is a haven away from home.  But where is authority’s protocol for treating the problem and solving the problem, not just fixing it to make it go away.  

A couple of days ago, I listened to an incredible TED talk.  It was about a prosecutor, Adam Foss, who handles multiple cases a day, involving young youth in Boston.  Adam talks about how youth, especially young African American males, are given lengthy sentences based on acts of youthful indiscretion; for example, shoplifting.  He was handed a case one day about a young, 17-year-old African American male. This young man had been charged with selling illegally obtained computers-he faced the possibility of spending life in jail.  Adam found out that this young man, we will call him Charlie, stole the computers and sold them so he could pay for college.  Now, Adam had one of two choices; he could either put this kid away for good or give him a second chance.  Adam went ahead and dropped the charges; he helped Charlie return all the stolen computers and for the ones he could not get back, Adam and Charlie created a payment plan.  Adam lost contact with Charlie but several years later at a convention, a young man walked up to him and gave him a hug.  “Adam!  You saved my life.  I wanted to say thank you.”  It was Charlie!  Years later, Charlie held a managerial position in a bank.  Charlie’s future was put into Adam’s hands and it only took one chance to create an opportunity and make a change.  Even though this happened in a judicial setting, the same principle applies to children in the school setting.  Figures of authority have the ability to change the outcome of a situation with the type and application of a consequence.  

A child’s education is imperative on how successful a child will be as an adult.  What a child sees or hears at school, among the teachers and peers, a child will develop an opinion about it.  It is the teacher’s obligation to make sure the child learns and uses the right opinion but learns about acceptance.  Kids need to be taught that it is okay to be different.  Violence only leads to more violence.  Even with how society labels you, you are special and have the ability to do and accomplish great things!  That even though an education about math and reading might be silly in the beginning, self-discipline, respect, and ambition will go a long way.  As an educator, I hope to accomplish this…create an environment where kids will thrive not only for the betterment of themselves but positively contributing to society.  It is troubling to see so many youth get tied up in situations that can potentially affect them for the rest of their lives…if only a teacher or guidance counselor or assistant had guided them differently.