Wow, I thought working with some of my students was an upstream battle…your situation sounds very challenging! I know what you mean about the blame game, as it is a natural and gives superficial satisfaction. It’s just like when people talk about how horrible the situations in government are, but they don’t vote. When teachers give an overarching generalization that the students have previously caused other instructors to leave, of course that attitude is going to seep into their teaching style, attitude, assessment style, and even perceived by the students (giving strength and mal-placed reinforcement to their “accomplishment”). I liked your analogy of these students in need to sparks on your game-board. I mean, even if we have 100 students that still continue to fail, what if one passes and improves their lives because of us? Doesn’t that make everything else worth it? Like you pointed out, if we have the choice to be negative or positive, why not at least try to “keep our board in the positive” (or in your words—“refreshing fountain of encouragement” J ). You are right, the Art of Possibility is a constant source of growth, not something we can master all in one day.
Spencer's Original Post:
For me, being the board has all kinds of difficulties that come along with the notion. I have been able to find solace in the blame game for my entire teaching career. The students that come to me are usually several grades behind in their mathematics knowledge. Much of this is due to (here comes the blame) teachers being "run off" by the bad acting children. In fact the students brag about how many teachers they have been able to get to leave. Having to accept responsibility of how I react to the situation will make me a better teacher from here on out. Instead of being able to write off the students that are not understanding what they ought to have learned in the past, I now have sparks to light. The students are on my board and I get to bring them to new places with new learning experiences. I can fight the facts that they are behind, or I can find out where they are and bring them as far around my board as possible in the time we have together. I can be just another voice telling them what they can't do, or I can be a refreshing fountain of encouragement. The art of possibility is just that, an art. Some people are naturals, others have to work hard at it. The great thing about the art of possibility is that everyone can grow.