The first thing we do when a student is doing consistently poorly in school should never be to chalk said student’s failures up to being a bad or unintelligent student. The first thing we should do should be to question the system. How is it treating this child? Is there anything or anyone that makes school unusually difficult for this student? Are the teachers kind? Do their methods work? Does the student have any learning difficulties? Should their teachers should be handling them differently in order to allow them to succeed? Questioning the system should be the very first response, because these are children. When a student is not trying, we assume he is a bad student.
Ultimately, the one thing that children have is potential. They have the potential to grow. This can be in any number of directions and the potential to discover any number of talents or interests. A child could be discovering that they do not have an academic predisposition. Still, enrich them by their scholastic experiences. They should have the opportunity to explore what they might be good at or what they might enjoy.
What we should be doing is seeking a recognition of the overall educational structure to which our students are being subjected. When students do not try within that educational structure, we tend to assume that they are bad students. We never ask whether there are flaws within the style of instruction. We should be doing the very opposite. Questioning the system first (taking into account the student’s wants and needs) and questioning the student themselves last.
Zoom has given parents a front line view of how some teachers treat their students. There have been multiple cases of teachers denying the right to go to the bathroom or outright punishing them for doing so. Others have been caught insulting students. These may be fairly extreme cases. However, they reveal a certain lack of respect for the students by teachers that is more common than anyone might have assumed.
This pandemic has been an opportunity to look at ourselves in the mirror and consider whether the way we think about education is meaningful or even makes sense. The answer to that for a lot of us has been a resounding “no.”