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A challenging home life can be eased through strong teacher and school support.

Teachers matter: Educators help create resilience

in Community/Education by

When we thought about our daughter going to Grade 7 this fall — at a new school in a new town — we had many concerns and hopes, but none were about the curriculum. The PC government’s attack on teachers and the threat to add a snitch line seems so petty. Teachers aren’t employed by the Province in the first place and the Ontario College of Teachers requires accountability and a professional level of standard — and boards are in place to monitor necessary levels of conduct.

Our concerns were typical parental concerns. Will she make friends? How will she adapt to having more than one teacher each day?

Our hopes were also typical and are mainly about her teachers.

Teachers matter more than anything, except for families, in the lives of their students. Ann Masten in her years of study on resilience situates education as a potential protective factor for students as the buffer between home/family life and larger social and political structures.

A challenging home life can be eased through strong teacher and school support. At the same time, a teacher is given a social and political curriculum to teach, but has freedom in the classroom to include topics that are relevant to his or her students. She explains that the school values, the teaching itself, and the expectations of teachers and their school all help to ensure a more resilient outcome.

How does this translate?

Schools and teachers that have values such as inclusion, equity, and standards that ensure the support of all students promote higher quality outcomes.

John Hattie found that teachers who have high expectations of success for all of their students equals an effect size of 1.44. This is huge. What this means is that teachers who believe their students can be successful — all of them — creates successful students.

Finally in a recent study from 2016 about the increasing stress and burnout of teachers, it concludes by stating that “although some students learn despite their teachers, most learn because of them—not just because of what or how they teach, but because of who they are as people.” *

We have come to realize that our daughter has great teachers here in Kawartha Lakes, a supportive school environment, and enjoys a space that is caring and inclusive with high standards — for her — and all students.

*Richards, K. A. R., Levesque-Bristol, C., Templin, T. J., & Graber, K. C. (2016). The impact of resilience on role stressors and burnout in elementary and secondary teachers. Social Psychology of Education, 19(3), 511-536.

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Joli Scheidler-Benns is a PhD candidate in Health Policy and Equity at York University. She is a sessional professor for UOIT's Faculty of Education. She serves in a Research, Strategy, and Community Development role for The Lindsay Advocate while also serving as a Writer-at-Large.

4 Comments

  1. A few months ago I was messaged a comment from one of my former students from years ago. He wanted me to know he won a major award as a teacher and his name was to be mentioned at Queens Park. The reason he wanted to tell me this was because he was inspired by me for him to become a teacher. His heart warming comment was very touching. When I was kicked out of teaching for protesting sex offenders being allowed to teach I was contacted by a victim who had been molested by a teacher and she thanked me for my efforts to stop child molesters from teaching. Being kicked out of teaching was nothing compared to what happened to this young girl by a teacher who has a right to get a pardon from his criminal record. For the time being the only advice I can give teacher who have been told about others who have harmed children is follow procedure and privately call Crime Stoppers. Good teachers need to be there for young people. We must listen and help in any way we can.

    • I agree that we should advocate for our students! It is always great to hear from a former student about our positive influence on them. In your case it was extreme and the outcome was tragic. Congratulations on making a difference to this student and likely countless others.

  2. Teachers should never be given “a social and political curriculum to teach”. That dulls the mind and prejudices the conscience.

    They should teach students how to advocate for the devil in civil debate, how to weigh evidence and make logical decisions based on probability not certainty, and to remain ever mindful of the wisdom of the Socratic paradox – “I know that I know nothing”.

    • Unfortunately our curriculum is politically and socially constructed and contested as such. Hence Doug Ford’s demands that we return to 30 year old health curriculum. Learning to debate and view others perspectives and this is where a teacher is situated. Teachers know what their students need to learn and shouldn’t be threatened through a political actor pretending that he knows best. A good teacher will work outside the realm of political paradox and do what is right.

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