Teachers: Here are the Top Five Ways to NOT Dismiss Students’ Experience

In this Education Week article, Gary Chapin and Sarah Chapin describe how their 16-year-old daughter’s interactions with teachers sometimes leave her feeling put down, diminished, and disrespected. Based on their daughter’s observations, the Chapins have the following requests for educators:

  • Please don’t tell students they just have to work harder. This diminishes the work they’ve already put in and also suggests that effort, not mastery, is the goal.
  • Please don’t use inappropriate analogies to justify requirements. For example, a teacher said, “If you’re late, it’s a zero. If the train leaves at 6:30 and you are there at 6:31, you miss the train.” But of course if you miss the 6:30 train, you’ll catch the 7:30. A better analogy might be a garden: “When the asparagus doesn’t come in on schedule,” say the Chapins, “you don’t blame the plant. You don’t blame anyone. You tend to the conditions.”
  • Please don’t tell kids that their world is fake. “The world of school is as real to our kids as the world of work, mortgages, and taxes is to us,” say the Chapins. “There is love and death. There are mistakes and triumphs for them, just like us.”
  • Please don’t end a hard conversation by putting kids in their place. To be sure, there are times when kids make bad choices and need to be corrected, but ending with “because I am the teacher” conveys an unfortunate message.
  • Please don’t hold students’ failures against them forever. “Don’t average scores,” urge the Chapins. “Averaging scores over time is like tying a weight to a kid because, at one point, they did not learn the thing we wanted them to learn in the timeframe that suited our plans. It adds no value to student learning, obscures deficits that should be addressed, and can create insurmountable burdens.”


“Teachers: Here Are the Top Five Ways to NOT Dismiss Students’ Experience” by Gary Chapin and Sarah Chapin in Education Week, June 21, 2018, https://bit.ly/2NLWabl

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