I understand how hard teachers work and how much they do. They create lesson plans and assignments, keep their classroom in order, write evaluations, and bring their work home with them, all for little pay.
I get that just being a student does not entitle a person — neither now nor later, in adulthood — to decide how classrooms should be run and what should be taught.
I do believe, however, that students are able to figure out who is a bad teacher and who is a good one, and that maybe the criticisms they make while in school should be listened to and considered.
I had a teacher once who treated students in her classroom as if we were much younger than we actually were. In the first math lesson, she covered simple addition and subtraction problems — something we had, in fact, learned four years earlier.
Another teacher I had, in seventh grade, seemed to enjoy bossing us around. When a friend of mine had a panic attack during class, this teacher said that it was not her problem. She treated her students unfairly. If they had special educational needs, she was less inclined to treat them decently. She also had clear favorites — those who did not question her and who followed directions quietly.
I feel confident in saying that these are two clear examples of less-than-competent teachers.
Again, teachers do not have an easy job, but when the kids are so frustrated and annoyed that they lash out at as one against the teacher, maybe there is something wrong with the teaching method.
I’m not saying all my teachers were horrible. In fact, these two examples are the only bad teachers I’ve ever had. What I am saying is that students can tell the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher.
I had a teacher in fourth grade who was the first to give me and my two best friends a chance by putting us all in the same room. She was warned over and over not to do that. We proved her right to trust us by always behaving well in class, and she would beam at us with pride.
I had a teacher in first grade who saw how much I was struggling with reading and would help me as best she could. She helped me learn to love and devour books.
I had a teacher in second grade who put up with my craziness and allowed me to read a little longer than the 20 minutes set aside for reading.
I have had so many wonderful teachers in high school who have supported me and have put up with all of my rants — especially my homeroom teacher, who understood that I needed to feel like I was being heard, and who would listen patiently as I went on about what was wrong in the world.
I — and many, many of my peers — know the difference between a good teacher and a bad one. We know how difficult the job is, especially now with all the regulations, standards and tests being required by people who have never taught in a classroom.
All we’re asking from teachers — and I guess from adults in general — is that they listen and believe us when we voice our complaints about how something is not working for us and how some things need to change.
Raya Israelson is a student at Avalon School in St. Paul.