Dear Dr. Marzano,
On Twitter, you wrote: “Students’ attention and engagement are directly under the control of the classroom teacher. There is no reason any student should be systematically bored, inattentive, or disengaged in any class at any grade level.”
Your comment sparked some great debate stemming from the unrealistically high expectations for teachers. Apparently, we are the sole reason that a student is “systematically bored, inattentive, or disengaged.” There are various factors behind a student’s behavior, such as not getting enough sleep to take care of their siblings, working extra hours to support their family, not understanding the value of education for it failed them, or the systematic oppression that they have experienced in their lifetime.
Such external factors still compel you to blame the educator who spends their own money, offers extra time away from family, and pours their heart and soul into a career they love. Yet, they are still constantly criticized. Critiquing others is the easy path, because it is like the audience who watches a game and gets frustrated with every move a player makes. They were never the ones who played the game. Blaming a teacher is simple, but a true master of their craft begins to figure out solutions.
Our career has always been one where those on the sidelines believe they can do better, yet they choose not to teach. We put our heart and soul into this job to be judged and scrutinized, rather than being treated as experts. We know that we can do better, but we are also realistic about our time or we burn out. Suggesting that students who do not follow along are our faults is disheartening. Why do we get told we are wrong for having a variety of students with different outlooks, experiences, and situations?
Understanding is difficult when one does not experience such a process. Systematic boredom is not the fault of the teacher, but rather those who have helped create expectations that meet certain students, but not each student. The institutional and systematic challenges are not with the teacher, but rather education holistically. Perhaps those exams that test “knowledge” are the issue. Perhaps the way schools are structured are the problem. Perhaps those so called systematic challenges are due to researchers who have limited knowledge best classroom practices, because they have not been in front of a class of students for years.
The fans are those who do not teach, but critique. Every decision we make involves a sense of blame, because it is easy. How about using your powers of educational greatness to find clear solutions? Use evidence where you attempt your practices in classrooms, so you can legitimately share your own insights to the profession. You can try to make that difficult pass, or take a shot from a place where we may struggle, then explain the process, so we can make attempts as well. Try to find solutions, for blaming is easy.
Teachers are stressed beyond measure, for they are not given the trust and opportunities to thrive. They are forced into numerous obligations, extra work, and excessive expectations. There are several passes thrown towards them, at the same time, from various directions while they are just trying to take a shot, and it never stops.
The students have choices. We give them numerous tools, and we constantly strive for success so our students thrive. We want our students to do well, yet we cannot blame ourselves for those who do not pay attention, for those may cause the nights we cannot sleep. Some are the kids who take a toll on our health. We ask ourselves why the students did not learn. We cannot be fixated on such emotionally draining challenges, so just like any game, we must continue to play, and we are striving to do the best we can for each student.