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Last week was conference week at our kids’ elementary school, so we had Parent/Teacher Conferences with three teachers.  They all went fine.  Fall conferences are for “goal setting,” and sort of an opportunity for parents and teachers to sit down and size each other up.

So far, I like all my kids’ teachers this year just fine.  One stands out, though, and it’s a teacher we’ve had in the past for two of our older kids.  I’ve always liked him.  And it hit me during our conference last week what it is I like about him so much: he’s reasonable.  That may sound like a silly thing to take note of with regard to all the qualities teachers should possess in order to be effective, but reasonableness stands out to me more and more these days in this climate of extremism that seems to be overtaking so many aspects of school and just life.

There are too many teachers – teacher’s I’ve dealt with – who are so hung up on “My Way Or the Highway,” who are so inflexible because They Know Best, that it’s just impossible to have a true dialogue with them about concerns or anything else for that matter.  These teachers have adopted an almost dogmatic stance on how to educate that, yes, begins to resemble a religion.  And in many cases, it boils down to an authoritarian stance that demands obedience and compliance above all else – and what gets lost?  So much: actual learning, and enthusiasm for learning.

I have a friend right now who is a parent of kids in a neighboring district, and she is dealing with a teacher who will not budge on ceasing to withhold recess as a consequence for unfinished homework.  My friend has tried to set reasonable limits on the homework she will enforce for her child, and has asked – in fact, insisted – that the teacher not punish her child for not completing homework, and the teacher simply will not budge – despite letters, meetings – no matter.  And the teacher is backed by the principal!

What does that have to do with educating, with learning?  Nothing, that’s what.  And what teachers like that are failing to see (which absolutely blows my mind) is that in the process of so stridently asserting their authority, they are turning children off to the process of being educated.  Who wins then?  Who?

In any case, it struck me during conferences last week how reasonable my twins’ fourth grade teacher is, and how much I appreciate that.  He’s an innovative and enthusiastic teacher who is committed to teaching – and he gets that kids come in all shapes, sizes, and learning styles.  He wants the kids to enjoy learning.  And he’s flexible in his approach.

Reasonableness.  It goes a long way.