I’ve seen it time and time again. I saw it today, in fact. I watch, almost helplessly, as a teacher struggles to convince a child to cooperate with them for a task, activity, or general expectation. The child is obviously having none of it, but the teacher behaves as though giving up is the same as giving in. A deadlock—a power struggle—two humans who desire power: a child who wants power over their own behavior, a teacher who wants power over the child’s behavior. It can end a few different ways:
“Can you tell me what just happened?” I ask.
“Well, you know, he’s a challenging kid.” They might say.
“What about his behavior challenges you?” I ask.
“Well, it’s not really his fault. His parents are getting divorced, so, it’s no wonder he’s so bad.”
Or a general sentiment/complaint I hear from teachers follows a truly troubling formula:
“I can’t be expected to __________ if the child isn’t getting ___________ at home.”
Some examples of this include:
“I can’t be expected to help him learn if the child isn’t getting motivated at home.”
“I can’t be expected to get him to behave if the child isn’t getting disciplined at home.”
“I can’t be expected to cover my curriculum if the child isn’t getting consistency at home.”
It’s like a surgeon saying “I can’t be expected to repair this organ if the patient isn’t eating well home.”
It’s like a pilot saying “I can’t be expected to fly this plane if the passengers aren’t preparing for their vacation at home.”
We are social creatures. Our entire lives are not defined by the way we live out our home lives. Sure, a child who is being abused or neglected at home may lash out more—may be more challenging behaviorally—but that is an explanation of their behavior, not an excuse for an educator’s inability to connect with them.
A child who isn’t expected to clean up at home, given a teacher who connects with them and facilitates with them a relationship of trust and respect, will clean up at school.
A child who isn’t expected to be respectful at home, given a teacher who connects with them and facilitates with them a relationship of trust and respect, will be respectful at school.
A child who isn’t being well-supported through a change in family dynamic at home, given a teacher who connects with them and facilitates with them a relationship of trust and respect, will behave well in school.
A child’s ability to behave in school depends on just a few factors, and none of them have anything to do with their home life:
It’s really as simple as this. So instead of jumping to defend our skills as educators, let’s stop citing home life for our own shortcomings, recognize that we are capable of making situations worse than they need to be, and do everything we can to do right by the children we serve.
They are our bosses, after all.
Our posts are created by several early childhood professionals. Most stories will include the author's name and a link to their "About Me" or the program they own or represent.