Focusing on That Which One Can Influence
Julia Steiny presents some thoughts on how to hire great teachers, and this point caught my eye:
[Delia Stafford, CEO of the Haberman Educational Foundation] adds that an interviewee might answer a question with: “‘What do they expect of me? The parents don’t show up and the kids don’t bring homework.’ If they tell us that kids are at risk because so many parents are not doing their jobs and the students aren’t interested, they aren’t going to work out. Some list everything outside of the classroom: ‘The curriculum doesn’t fit; we test them too much.’ On the other hand, another person might say, ‘I would never punish kids because their parents didn’t show up.’ These are basic, core beliefs.”
Of course, such an attitude during a job interview shows extremely poor judgment, in the first place, not the least because it assumes shared group-think with the interviewers. Putting that aside, though, the lesson is certainly not exclusive to teachers: We can only change that which we have the power to control.
A person hired to do a job should see obstacles as problems to be addressed, not preemptive excuses. Homework, for example, has a purpose. If it isn’t getting done, then that purpose isn’t being achieved. A teacher must either figure out a way to motivate a particular student to do the homework or find some alternative method that achieves the underlying goal of the homework.
The strategies could be very broad, such as changes to school policies and culture, but they’re likely to be very specific to the student and the situation. As Stafford suggests, the important things are the core beliefs — the basic understanding of role and approaches to problem solving.