I read Larry's post with a great deal of empathy, and was sorry that he had
to face such a total lack of regard for the students by the espoused
philosophy that the administration at his former school seemed to be
supporting. What an appalling situation to have to teach in, and how
horrendous for the students to grow up in such an artificial environment.
I have taught in a number of different scenarios over the past 3 decades,
and have always found that the teachers in the so-called 'elective' areas
typically had to counsel their administrators as much as their students, as
to the worth of the subject matter that they were teaching. But the final
eye opener for many of those administrators was the positive response that
students generally had to those subject areas in which they could actually
excel and show off their individual talents.
That ability for students to succeed was a big selling point for the worth
of the subject being taught in the school, almost as important as the
winning football team stats....
OK, that wasn't necessarily true of all administrations, sometimes hockey
stats were more important.
The deeper issues of students with major life problems that confide in their
teachers (irrespective of the classes that they teach), is definitely of
more immediate concern than whether a given area in the curriculum is
provided more or less credence than any other. I have been lucky in being
able to connect with administrators more often than not regarding the
importance of keeping those communication channels open between students and
staff, and have always made a point of finding opportunities to befriend the
guidance counselors who do play a huge part in being able to intervene and
assist students with their needs. It is their job within the school to
effect those changes, though it is often change that is generated due to an
observant teacher who has the confidence of a specific student that brings
the issue(s) to light.
There is no simple solution to getting students the help that they need in
all scenarios, and no end to the complexities created by societal /
procedural constraints on keeping up appearances and staying within the
confines of what is deemed to be 'politically correct', however there
usually is a way to resolve most situations if we look to involve as many
stakeholders in the process as is feasible, keeping in mind the welfare of
the students as the central concern. Sometimes what the teacher feels /
knows to be the answer is only part of what is necessary. Our insights are
often guided by that portion of the situation that we are privy to, and are
not necessarily the complete picture either. I know in my own experience
that I have gone to bat for a student on occasion with answers that I felt
were right on for solving the specific dilemma being faced, only to find out
later that the world and the issues involved far transcended my small window
into what was taking place.
The most important thing that we can do as Larry stipulated, is to stay
involved and connected with our students. Teachers are often the best early
warning signs that kids have in their lives, and teachers of the arts, for
whatever the reasons, are among the most empathetic.
A hearty thank you to all of you out there who care as much as Larry