Friday, October 1, 2010

Week 3: What You Really Need To Know About A Student

Almost all of the schools in the Chicago suburbs use the same online job application system. The nice part about this is that it can import information from one application to another so you don’t have to enter in your name and address for every school you apply to.  The annoying part is that there is this list of essay questions that schools can chose that for you to answer and some of them are kind of. . . weak.

Like this one:
How much do you want to know about your students in order to be most helpful to them?

AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. How is this questions not a no-brainer? Lord knows that teaching is hard enough and it’s even harder when you have no idea what to expect from your students. So when I heard that I was going to be part of transition meetings I was ecstatic.

The idea of a transition meeting is that teachers pass on information about students they had the previous year to the teachers the students currently have.  Now I’ve never been to one of these meetings so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I imagined that with an unprofessional group of teachers, this kind of meeting could become an opportunity for teachers to complain about students and make inappropriate jokes about them. 

Now I would be lying to say that there wasn’t some laughter as teachers talked about students. Some of the stories about students were entertaining. We’re are human. However, within all the discussion there was a level of gravity to the purpose and importance to the meetings.

Teachers were discussed their past students in the hope that the students' new teachers could continue their work and help the students grow.  But it wasn’t just “in the hope.”  This wasn’t a discussion wishing that things could be better for the student.  Words were spoken with a level of confidence that the new teachers could take this student farther then ever before.

There is a danger in all of this.  Shouldn’t ever student get a fair chance to make a clean impression with a teacher without that teacher inadvertently making judgments from talks with other teachers?

We all have the tendency to make judgments about people. It’s something we do without thinking about and it’s not fair to students to let those judgments cloud the way we treat them.  However we would not be doing the best we could for them if we didn't prepare by collaborating with other teachers.

We must acknowledge our baser tendencies and work against them. Even if we can’t help ourselves and we get a negative impression of our students we can still serve our students if we receive the most important thing that was passed on in the meetings: faith.


  1. "Even if we can’t help ourselves and we get a negative impression of our students we can still serve our students if we receive the most important thing that was passed on in the meetings: faith."

    Faith is it. You are right about transition meetings and those moments in the hall. There are years when I think, "I don't want to know all the problems/successes that you have had in the past," but in the end, what I take away from those meetings is that sense of faith that there is something valuable in each student, and in each teacher-student interactions. And hope in the future. Teaching is a leap of faith. We never really know, do we?

  2. It's interesting. I don't really know if this was done at my high school. I think I probably would have known if it was. I think that I only could have profited from it. It depends on a teacher's willingness to engage a student. Most kids make mistakes and bomb in classes at least once and they don't deserve to carry that weight and be afraid of other teacher's expecting that. It could be a tragic snowball effect for some students unless each teacher used what they learned about how that student learns and uses that to improve how they teach them and not just knowing what to expect from them. In happy magical christmas land, where everything works the way it hypothetically works, teachers and students could really benefit from this. But I don't see every teacher using this to its full value and in turn, makes it unproductive for both parties.