I know there is a thin line between stating reality and making excuses, but there is a line. I don't want to dismiss problems as being unsolvable, but I think there is room for calling things as they are and not sitting in an endless cloud of idealism where no true changes are made.
I have sat through countless seminars and meetings in my 15 years as a teacher where the presenter insists that we can have across the board success with students. If curriculum is done right, if the instruction is delivered properly, if the environment is correct, etc... then EVERY child will succeed.
Do you notice anything missing in the equation?
The child's responsibility.
However, if you say that, you will be accused of making excuses. After all, if the child is unmotivated, then it is the teacher's job to motivate the student. As far as these theorists are concerned, the child plays no role in his or her outcome.
From personal experience, I reject this premise. I was the classic trouble maker as a boy. I never got anything above a C prior to 10th grade. School was at the bottom of a short list of meaningless priorities. Looking back, I recognize that many of my teachers did all that they could. They employed the right strategies, they cared, they intervened... yada, yada, yada. I simply didn't want to do it. Period. End of story.
They were powerless.
In the summer prior to my 10th grade year, that all changed. Perhaps someday on this blog I will write out my testimony. Suffice to say, I saw de' light.
I came back the first quarter of my 10th grade year and nailed 4 A's and two B's. My teachers and principal were shocked, but they had nothing to do with my turnaround. I pulled those grades because I wanted to. Period. End of story.
I believe I must do ALL that I can to help my students, but they must put forth effort. Their will affects their destiny. Like the ghosts and the Bright Ones in Lewis's The Great Divorce, the student can put nearly all of their weight on me but they must still walk.
If we take all responsibility in the equation away from the students, should we then be surprised if they approach life irresponsibly?