I stumbled across a New York Times op-ed piece by eighth grade teacher Laura Klein today that really resonated. Klein makes the case for applying a “no excuses” approach to teaching students, including those who are English-language learners or who have special needs. “There’s always a reason for a child’s behavior. It’s important to understand the reason, but it’s equally important to remember that a reason is not an excuse,” she writes.
As teachers, we want to provide support, encouragement, and understanding that some things are beyond a child’s control. But, as Klein points out, at what point do excuses become crutches with long-lasting effects? Master teachers find ways to understand the individual student, help them develop their own repertoire of strategies for academic success, and ultimately, own the learning process. The overarching goal of education is preparing our students to be productive, contributing, and successful in life. I submit that teaching children to leverage their strengths, improve upon their weaknesses, and overcome their obstacles have far greater payoffs than enabling them with excuses.
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