The Rhetoric of “They Don’t”…
Fair warning: this is mostly a rant.
“They don’t do their homework”
“They don’t take notes”
“They don’t pay attention”
“They don’t come to class prepared”
“When will they start to become better students?”
I hate this language – this phrasing – this rhetoric. I can’t stand it. It chills me to the bone to hear other teachers say this.
It’s irresponsible. It’s passing the buck. It’s dodging the issue.
Step deflecting, take ownership, and say this instead:
“My students don’t do their homework”
“My students don’t take notes”
“My students don’t pay attention”
“My students don’t come to class prepared”
“What can I do to make them better students?”
If you want to inspire change in your students, you’re the thing that needs to change.
This is one of the reasons teaching stresses me out – because if I don’t like something about my classroom, most of the time it’s something I can change. Management issues? I need to add more structure. Comprehension issues? I need to tighten up my lessons. Retention issues? I need to change my assessment strategies. Case and point: see my whole 1st year of teaching, documented on this blog, and all the stuff I tried so my kids would get better. Most of it falls on me.
So I hate this language because it says that you’ve stopped taking responsibility for your classroom. That you can’t be the agent of change that you want in your students. That you’ve convinced yourself that all classes have students who won’t let you raise your standards, which absolutely isn’t true.
And I don’t understand it. I honestly do not understand how someone can stop wanting to be better at what they do.
When I talk about my classes, I say ‘my students’, because then I know the next question I need to ask is “what can I do to change it?”
End of rant.
Update 3/16: Most of the discussions I’ve seen that come from this post have to do with the division of responsibility between teacher and student, and how I take most of the responsibility on myself. In the comments, Kate had a thought on this that I appreciated:
“I think there’s a middle ground between blaming the students and blaming the teacher… I don’t think there’s any problem in dividing the responsibility between the students and the teacher as long as it is done in a positive way”