What’s your problem?

As educators, we know that many of the issues our students face in our classrooms didn’t originate in our classrooms. DNA, disabilities, talents, developmental timelines, parenting styles, family dynamics, health, tragedy, prior teachers/schools, and social-emotional challenges all play a role in dealing a student’s deck.

We often feel that we’re fighting a losing battle with some students due to circumstances that are beyond our control. Jimmy has ADHD and can’t focus in my class. Rebecca’s parents are neglectful and don’t discipline her or read to her (or answer my calls). Michael just transferred from a different school that taught him nothing for three years. Lauren needs to be evaluated for dyslexia but her parents are in denial. Sam gets anxious and carelessly rushes through all of his work.

These statements may all be true. If we try hard enough, we may even be able to come up with a similar statement for each and every student we encounter. Even the ones who are successful can be explained away. James is a genius. Abby has two involved parents who are educators. Josh has a tutor. Michelle is mature for her age.

Are these statements for the benefit of the student? Do they help us better educate her?

Are they for our benefit? Do they make us feel better because we can avoid blame for failures?

What if we took all of the energy we spend talking about problems we can’t solve and poured it into talking about the problems we can solve and how we’re going to solve them?

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