Monday, July 31, 2006

"For Once, Blame the Student" by Patrick Welsh

I did not join the blogosphere until the middle of May, so maybe a lot of you have already seen this column. If so, it's worth seeing again. In March, Patrick Welsh, a high school teacher at T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, wrote an editorial in USA Today that was titled "For Once, Blame the Student." I didn't see it until a friend sent it to me, but when I read it, I thought, "Man, did this guy hit the nail on the head!" If you haven't already read the column, I hope you'll go to the link and read the whole thing, but here are some bits and pieces of it:

Welsh says that as he was averaging his classes' quarter grades, a pattern leapt out at him:

Kids who had emigrated from foreign countries — such as Shewit Giovanni from Ethiopia, Farah Ali from Guyana and Edgar Awumey from Ghana — often aced every test, while many of their U.S.-born classmates from upper-class homes with highly educated parents had a string of C's and D's.

As one would expect, the middle-class American kids usually had higher SAT verbal scores than did their immigrant classmates, many of whom had only been speaking English for a few years.

What many of the American kids I taught did not have was the motivation, self-discipline or work ethic of the foreign-born kids.

Politicians and education bureaucrats can talk all they want about reform, but until the work ethic of U.S. students changes, until they are willing to put in the time and effort to master their subjects, little will change.

Welsh tells us that Asian students believe the key to doing well in school is working hard, while Americans tend to believe that the teacher is the key:

When asked to identify the most important factors in their performance in math, the percentage of Japanese and Taiwanese students who answered "studying hard" was twice that of American students.

American students named native intelligence, and some said the home environment. But a clear majority of U.S. students put the responsibility on their teachers. A good teacher, they said, was the determining factor in how well they did in math.

"Kids have convinced parents that it is the teacher or the system that is the problem, not their own lack of effort," says Dave Roscher, a chemistry teacher at T.C. Williams in this Washington suburb. "In my day, parents didn't listen when kids complained about teachers. We are supposed to miraculously make kids learn even though they are not working."

Don't assume that schools are entirely left off the hook in this opinion piece, because they're not, and neither are colleges. This is a great column, and if you are a teacher who has read it, you probably know what I mean when I say that it took a real classroom teacher to write it. And it's so nice to see something that hasn't been sent down from one of those ivory towers.


Blogger the anonymous teacher said...

That was an excellent article. Well-written. And as you said, it could only have come from a classroom teacher's perspective.

7/31/2006 8:48 AM  
Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

Yes, Yes, Yes! Right-On!

7/31/2006 4:59 PM  
Blogger W Brown said...

I teach in a small NYC High School in NYC

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8/01/2006 8:06 AM  
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