Are Teachers to Blame?

Yesterday I, once again, read a letter from one of our fifty state education gurus in which a school (School #1), based on paper-pencil testing, was informed of their “status.”  Of course, blame was assigned to the school district and teachers and parents were given the option of transferring their students to another school (School #2) where the “learning gap” is not as wide.

Educators know that if the low achieving students transfer to School #2, the problem that previously existed in School #1 will become the new problem of School #2. This is because the major causes of students’ learning problems relate to things over which school districts and teachers have no control.

Having taught at a much earlier time in a school that consistently had low achieving students, I learned a few things about the reasons students fail to learn. Those, obviously, unaware people who develop state education rules and regulations apparently do not understand the causes for some children being at a disadvantage with learning tasks.

Whose responsibility is it to read to young children? Should the teachers who hope to teach children reading skills when they start to school travel to homes each evening, tuck the kids into bed, and read stories to them?

I grew up in a home with few luxuries, but we had the “luxury” of books in our lives. My mother made it a point to see that the library was used regularly by our family and gifts we received for special occasions often included books. I was read to every night from the time I can first remember. Some of the first books were Peter Rabbit and The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. As I matured, books were chosen that contained more complex plots and concepts. Guess what? When I went to school I was already reading the "sight words" I had seen so often during story time.

Questions I have for those who are unaware concerning learning:
  • Why do teachers need to help children develop large motor skills? Could it be that the reason some children can’t skip, throw a ball, or balance is because those skills do not develop while sitting in front of a TV? 
  • Why might children enroll for the first time in school not knowing how to hold a book, how to use a crayon, how to count to ten, where they live, or how to spell their names?
  • Why is it that children can give teachers the details of television programs that were aired long after what should be bed time for children?
  • Why do children arrive at school dirty and with their hair uncombed?
  • Who is responsible for teaching children polite behavior, respect, and the skill of attending to task?

Michelle Obama has received extensive criticism for her fight against obesity and her attempt to make parents aware of their responsibility concerning nutrition. Good for her for persisting! But resistance to the plan of the First Lady no doubt makes educators even more reluctant to place the blame for the learning gap where it belongs – with the ones who bring those children into the world.

Children probably do not possess skills that will make them good parents. Television sets do not foster learning. Unhealthy meals do not build healthy bodies and minds. My very unpopular belief is that until families are fixed, the hands of educators are tied.


  1. Well, then. You have opened yourself up for attack on this one. I mean, you are absolutely and totally right, and the truth, as Jesus told us, will set us free. But as Jack Nicholson said, (people) can't handle the truth.

    And so, the hands of the educators remain tied. *sigh*

    1. Vanilla, I get really steamed when teachers are blamed for things they can't control.

      Nicholson is right, people can't handle the truth.

  2. You are not alone in your convictions on this matter.

    1. Secondary Roads, I try to believe that at some point someone who is in charge will figure out that giving power back to teachers will solve a lot of problems.

      I saw on Vanilla's blog that the long-time blogging buddies group had a great pow-wow at your place. :)

  3. Having just lived through two children with special needs completing their public education, I have a different point of view. Especially in urban settings, there are many teachers who need to retire or find other careers that do not involve children. I have had the pleasure of working with some wonderful teachers but I have also faced teachers that were bitter, uncaring, and lazy. I believe the blame for a poor education is a shared cause between the home and the schools.

    In Chicago, schools are actually dangerous; children are killed weekly on their way to school or at school. How does a child concentrate on education when they fear for their lives? I say this just to add that the community also needs to share in the cause of poorly educated children.

    I agree, in this day and age it is not easy to be a teacher and all teachers need our support. I also know, it is not easy to be a parent in the best of circumstances and parents need to be appreciated and supported as well.