Apr 20, 2011

Popularity--not in my Job Description

This week I had a one-on-one conversation with a student who has been having some issues, both in and out of school. She is frustrated by gossip and people who trash-talk about her, yet she consistently puts herself in the middle of the group of people who frustrate her most. We talked about her feelings and what she can do to help the situation. In the middle of the conversation, she told me that the kids who have been giving her problems in our classroom don't like me. I had to chuckle.

Making students like me is not my job. Helping them to graduate from high school and become contributing members of our society is.
Creative Commons attribution by madmolecule 

Don't get me wrong, it is nice when I have students who turn out to be friends. I have had some close relationships with students that have been built on mutual respect. But friendship is not the purpose of our relationship. The purpose is educational: I facilitate their learning. I assist them in their self-directed studies. I do whatever I can to help them achieve graduation from high school. I try to help them learn how to be successful in the world after high school.

Our journey together needs structure. Structure means that certain rules and standards are in place. When students break the rules, there are consequences. It is part of my job to impose those consequences. This doesn't always make me a popular person...

Creative Commons attribution: by Bytemarks
But popularity is not my goal. In the real world, all choices have consequences, and my students need to learn about those consequences. Come to work late, and you may be docked some pay. Use illegal substances and your health may suffer/you may be arrested/you may lose your job and/or you may lose custody of your children. Make disparaging remarks to a peer--in person or on Facebook--and you may be on the receiving end of a harassment lawsuit. Spend your hours texting when you should be working and you may not have a job for long.

These are the real life consequences for the choices many of my students make on a daily basis. It is my job to model good choices, and to teach them about the consequences of bad choices. It is rarely an easy job and it is definitely not one that is popular--but it sure is rewarding when I have the privilege of watching a student graduate. It's even more rewarding when they come back to visit, hug me, tell me about their lives, and share their success stories! Such moments make me realize that teaching in an alternative school program is a very long-term job--the true rewards don't come until long after the kids have left.
Creative Commons Attribution: by smays


  1. I love this... no good can come from not be truthful about the realities of life. As an educator, one has to see the big picture; and that includes being brutally honest at times. To ignore this would be doing the students a disservice.

  2. Thanks for your comment, William! That's exactly my thinking--if I don't give my students the truth I am doing them a disservice. That's not being mean, it's just being honest and trying to prepare them for life.


What do you think? Start a conversation here!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...