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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Teachers need the benefit of the doubt!


This subject is one of my pet peeves. You see, as a teacher I have sometimes been interpreted as making inappropriate comments. Much of it comes from the subject matter; the course standards for Spanish include a good amount of cultural analysis and comparison. This can lead to discussions of complex topics about which some people are quite sensitive.

As any reader may attest, I don't consider someone's race a very important factor in who that person is. Having lived in South America for years, my perspective on questions of nationality is similar.  Moreover, I find it useful sometimes to "illustrate absurdity by being absurd;" that is, point out cultural stereotypes in order to display their inaccuracy. Sometimes the only part of the discussion that makes its way home is the stereotype rather than the fact that it was subsequently analyzed and disproved. This is a shame. How am I to defeat cultural misconceptions if I must fear misrepresentation and reprisals for doing so?

Perhaps I should just ignore these issues. I should simply state, "Let's not talk about that" and allow the teachable moment to slide by. Certainly my life would be easier if I took that avenue, but that's not why I decided to be a teacher. Analyzing complex topics is what breeds human intelligence, and I went into this business to do just that.

Nevertheless, I am sometimes called upon to defend my honor, so to speak, as the result of concerns expressed directly to an administrator rather than to me. I cannot emphasize enough that all teachers hate this! We expect to be given at least the opportunity to clarify or explain the true circumstances in any given misunderstanding before having to explain ourselves before an administrator. Children are not exactly the best message-carriers. If you don't believe me, try having one of your children deliver a message for you after only hearing it once and waiting a few hours before repeating it. I rest my case.

Parents, please talk to the teacher before contacting anyone else! Nothing eats away at a good relationship between parents and teachers more than distrust, and so much of that could be very easily resolved through a simple phone call or email to the teacher. Nothing so annoys a good teacher than to be misrepresented negatively in front of the administration.

Let's think logically. What incentive does the teacher have to be purposefully offensive, to punish your child for no reason, or to otherwise create conflict? I have news for you--the teacher has none. Logic would therefore dictate that most second-hand information that seems to be questionable might be related in an inaccurate way. At the very least, let the teacher have the opportunity to defend himself. (I'll use the generic masculine here, which some might find offensive in and of itself. Oh well!)

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