I wrote that last blog entry for two reasons. The first is that teaching middle school is stimulating my memories of events in my life that occurred when I was the same age as my students. The other reason is that for the first time as a teacher, I am facing a real challenge to make a true impact in the lives of some of my students, at least at this apparent time.
I believe that until a student is eighteen years of age, they should not have the right to deny themselves an education. It's a naive look at the world, but it motivates me to do everything possible short of things illegal or unethical to stop a child from neglecting their education.
Now that I am teaching middle school, I am finding students who have neglected their education and their responsibility to do hard work for seven, long academic years: kindergarten, and the first through the sixth grades. By that time, they can be so far behind that catching up would be a difficult task. With the ingrained attitude of disgust, disregard, and disdain they have towards authority, adults and teachers, it would be almost impossible.
Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect. Seven years of neglectful work habits in school may have made some of their behavior permanent, and I may not be able to change them. They are old enough to know better and young enough to not be punished for their decision until they become adults.
All I know is that I will never give up trying to reach those who have learned they have the right to disdain sound advice, to disrespectfully speak to others and their teachers, and to refuse to obey any rule they deem unworthy. I will never relinquish. I will never give up the good fight.
Has our society relinquished its authority to expect respect for teachers and demand obedience of their rules? This is not a new societal problem nor is it a unique question never faced by a previous generation. It's an ancient battle. It's a war in which I have clearly taken sides, and I will never give up the good fight.