And that elephant is this: bad behavior, student apathy, and absenteeism are the real reasons schools “fail.”
If every child listened in class and did their schoolwork, most would be successful learners.
But they don’t, and there are hundreds of reasons why. In media reports, those reasons hide behind the more general term of “poverty.” And yes, sometimes a child who grows up in poverty has never been taught how to behave. And sometimes students are apathetic because they are hungry, or frightened, or sick. Poverty manifests itself in schools in hundreds of devastating ways. But “poverty” has become a catchall term, so overused in reference to education that it’s lost its power.
For readers the word “poverty” has different connotations, depending on their worldview. Some equate poverty with laziness. Some think poverty is a choice. And still others think no further than “there but for the grace of God go I.”
So it’s important that we take bad behavior and apathy out from behind the label of poverty and address it for what it is: the direct result of parental choices and societal influence.
Because there’s an entire stratum of students who are not poor, yet don’t behave because they’ve never been expected to. Thousands of students, and sometimes their parents, are at war with their teachers and their schools every day.
At parent/teacher conferences, when faced with an indisputable transgression on the part of their child, I heard dozens of parents say, “I know, I can’t do anything with him either.” But just as many parents adamantly stuck up for their children with the claim, “It’s not my kid’s fault.”
When teachers attempt to discuss disruptive, violent, mean kids, they walk a razor-sharp line between professional discourse and whining. One wrong step and their careers are in shreds. They know this.