The Teacher is always right.
Whether a teacher thinks a child is going to do very well or the teacher thinks the child is going to struggle, she is right. Teachers are hugely powerful. They send clear messages to the other students about how to treat each child.
One of the first things any child looks for is to see if he or she belongs in this environment. Are there kids who look like me in my books? Are there kids who have less mainstream names than the average kid? Are there people in authority who look like me, the teachers, the aides, the administrators? Do any of them have names that sound like mine?
Too often for far too many of our children the answer is no. It is currently considered a good idea to fully include children with learning challenges in the mainstream classroom. If I have a disability, how does my teacher feel about having me in her class. Does she see me as just one more burden thrust on her by an administration that has no idea of everything with which I need to deal. Does he see me as potentially dragging down the class test scores and making him look like a bad teacher? If I am an English language learner, does my teacher realize that I might be very smart and that it is just my lack of facility with English that makes it hard for me to answer questions?
Maybe my teacher is very well-intentioned. Perhaps she believes that with a lot of effort on her part she will “save” me from my community. Maybe I don’t want to be saved. Maybe I want to be respected for the good things about my community and even about my disability.
The teacher sets forth the social order in the classroom. Whether it is a sigh when I don’t process language as quickly as she thinks I should or a comment such as “we need to move on here”, he is sending a message that my presence is a burden. When another student asks something about my name, my attire or my learning disability and the teacher responds as if I weren’t present rather than suggesting that the student just ask me- a message about my belonging is sent forth. None of our kids needs to be saved. Everyone of them knows something they could teach the teacher. Every child comes from a place of value. It is up to us the educators to feel the value of difference and to teach that value to all of the children in the classroom.
Teachers teach many subjects, math, English, history-but the most important thing they can teach and convey to their students is why each and every student is of value and can bring something of value to the other children. Because we all know the teacher is always right- it is just not always clear what the teacher is teaching is also right.