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Thank a ‘hard’ teacher

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By Ken Begley

One day one of my kids asked me to read a written homework assignment that required a lot of research.

I looked it over and was pleasantly surprised that it was really quite good for a high school student. So I told the kid, “Hey, I like that. That’s good. It’s well-phrased and makes sense. You’re going to be a good writer.”  

The kid looked up and said with a touch of irritation “Well, I wish my teacher felt that way. She’s always sending everything I write back with it all marked up.  If I want a grade better than a C, then I have to rewrite it over and over again until she likes it.”

That made me feel good.  

The teacher was obviously someone that took her job quite seriously, because it takes a long time to read written work and make worthwhile comments. It also showed that the teacher wasn’t just passing out A’s regardless of the true value of the student’s efforts. We should all be grateful when a teacher holds a student to high standards, and I’ll tell you why.

Life is extremely competitive these days, and good job opportunities, unfortunately, have been shrinking for decades. In addition, education after high school is extremely expensive. So the cost of failing after high school means you could end up financially damaging your life forever. That is not an exaggeration.

Unfortunately, a lot of grade and high school teachers are often under pressure to not be tough on kids.  

You know what I mean.  

The kid doesn’t get an “A,” and the parents get mad.  

The kid gets a lot of homework, and the parents get mad.  

The kid gets a project to do, and the parents get mad.  

Somehow “hard” teachers are sometimes considered to be the “enemy” by parents if they put pressure on their kids to perform.

You know what happens sometimes when you do that enough? The teacher gives in.

It’s easy to do. They can dumb down the standards and pretend to teach.  

Then the students can play along by pretending to learn. Then the teacher can give the students some pretend A’s that will make the parents and the kid feel good about  themselves.  

No more angry parents. No more angry students. No more long nights grading papers and making up tests. Problem solved.

Everybody’s happy.

That is until the kid is no longer a kid after high school. Then they show up at a job, vocational school or college half illiterate, lacking in math, science, and language skills. The high school teacher can then just wave ‘bye to the student as you are no longer her problem. It is now effectively the student’s problem.

So what happens then? It’s not hard to imagine.

If it is a competitive job at a desirable place to work, then the graduate probably just won’t get it.

He might not be accepted into the college or technical school of his choice.  If he does get in on a waiver, then he’ll probably be required to take remedial courses to get him up to minimum standards.  

Remedial courses means that the student is repeating subjects that he should have learned in high school. Remedial courses cost more, delay the completion of school, and don’t count toward school credits.

Here’s another little fact: Apparently a student needing remedial coursework after high school is a bad sign as to how the rest of their education is going to go.

“In Ohio and Kentucky, only 6.4 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively, of remedial students earn an associate’s degree (two-year degree) in three years. The rest either require more than three years, or withdraw,” according to an article in the Huffington Post as quoted from a nonprofit organization, Complete College America.

The article also stated that “four in 10 high school graduates are required to take remedial courses when they start college.”  

Even if the student does have the ability to do better, he hasn’t experienced the academic pressure he will face once he reaches college. The rule of thumb is he will spend three hours of independent studying in college for every one hour in the classroom.

This lack of experience with mental discipline and toughness often leads a student to failure at college or vocational school as well.

An article written by a fellow named Crzadkiewicz and edited by Elizabeth Wistrom in 2012 stated that “35 percent of students who enter college will drop out during the first year.”

Unfortunately, most people do need some sort of instruction after high school to get and hold a good job.  

The repercussions of a poor education are devastating. Money won’t make you happy, but lack of it can make you miserable.  

It’s hard enough to make a living even if you have a great education these days. That just puts you on the same level with everyone else. If you don’t even have that then you really are behind the eight ball.

So, I end this article by trying to encourage “hard” teachers to not become discouraged when their efforts seem to go unappreciated at the least and attacked at the worst.  

What you do today literally changes lives forever and for the better. You’re not guaranteeing someone a bright and happy future. But you are giving them the tools to determine their own destiny.

I also encourage parents to be grateful for the “hard teachers.”

“Hard teacher” is just another phrase for “hard worker.”  

It’s so much easier to not be.