Sunday, June 10, 2012

Acceptability and Going Pro

The end of the school year is always a time for reflection. My "December 31st emotions" are procrastinators, waiting half a year before manifesting themselves.

Apparently, I'm not the only teacher like this. A teacher I respect was reflecting on the year (and perhaps years) and said, "I'm tired of it." My guess is that there was some internal dialogue going on there, because I didn't know what she was talking about at the time. Either that or I was zoning out, which also tends to happen at the end of the year.

I imagine I gave a quizzical look, as there's a lot that can burn a teacher out these days: the high stakes tests with huge margins of error, feeling unappreciated, unfunded mandates, lack of parental involvement, too much parental involvement, other teachers who complain about lack of parental involvement or too much parental involvement... come on guys - you can't have it both ways... I was worried that the teacher was about to say, "I'm just tired of 'kids these days.'" It's a line we've all heard from teachers suffering from burnout, and I personally hate it. The best part about being in education is the kids.

The teacher said, "Whenever I ask a kid what he's going to do when he grows up, he tells me that he's going to play in the NBA or NFL and I'm tired of it. ...No... you're not. At some point someone's got to tell them that those aren't attainable goals, and they need to focus on something more realistic."

...I had to think about this for a while. The teacher's right. There is no way that my entire 4th hour class will be making it into the NBA - even though that's what they all write down.

The teacher went on, "I've always just encouraged them to chase their dreams, and I'm tired of it. ...Or I'll say, alright but what are your other options in case that doesn't work out? 'Nothing,' they say. 'I don't need nothing else. I'm gonna make it.'"

This teacher has a point. If I encourage a kid to chase his dream of going pro, am I motivating him or setting him up for failure? I've always said things like, "Well, keep your grades up, it'll take a lot of hard work, stay out of trouble... those guys had to work really hard." Is this self-centered, short-sighted deception on my part? Or will it keep them on the straight and narrow until they figure it out for themselves?

So, has my job come to this? What should teachers do? My gut says, "let them figure it out on their own," but my brain is saying, "this teacher may actually have a point that could end up helping kids if done correctly."

What about the ethics or acceptability of dream crushing?


  1. Interestingly, the day after I posted this I saw This on Joanne Jacobs blog - which asks the same question, but in the context of community college.

    As well as This video on CNN - where a teacher giving the graduation speech tells the students they aren't special. ...Maybe a lot of people are reflecting this year?

  2. I saw that. LZ Granderson just wrote an Op Ed about it: .

    1. I can't get my html to work...

    2. Don't worry about it. :) Thanks.