Robyn Jackson, as always, makes some excellent points in her Mindsteps Article: 10 Promises We Should Keep to our Students. I completely agree with the first part of the article, that it is irresponsible for an educator (teacher or principal) to promise that a student will graduate high-school or will finish a course successfully.
I am a HUGE believer in the attitude expressed so well by Shel Silverstein in the poem “The Bridge”:
“This bridge will only take you halfway there / the last steps you have to take alone”.
I can put my heart in helping students learn, utilize all my professional skills, but I can’t learn for them. Therefore, I cannot promise they will master the material, pass the test and graduate successfully.
Clear enough. Or as the students might say, “duh”.
However, Jackson claims that there are ten promises we should be making to our students and that we had better keep them.
Calling them “promises” scares me completely.
And I won’t make those promises.
Because promises must be kept. I was also brought up that way. I don’t make promises to students because there are always too many variables.
I strive to give you, a safe learning environment, I really do. But I can’t promise that it will never happen that you think another student was making fun of your answer when my back was turned (even if he wasn’t) and you get insulted (or worse, with consequences) because your social skills are highly problematic.
I strive to provide challenging and engaging instruction that will meet your needs and help you grow but it is extraordinarily difficult to do so for all students all the time. Especially with some curriculum demands. Sometimes you may not like the task which I thought would be engaging…
I strive to listen to the verbal & non verbal feedback you are giving me to help you study, but sometimes what you want is not what you need, or is not something I am able to provide as a teacher.
I can’t even make promise number five, which is my favorite on Jackson’s list:
“I promise to keep trying until together, we figure out the best way to help you learn”.
Again, “together” requires a partner. I’m “game”, I’ll do my best to get you to be motivated too, but I can’t do anymore than that…
Finally, I can’t promise that on some days I won’t have a rough day of my own and not be the most attentive and patient teacher I want to be.
Goals to strive for – YES!
But not promises.