“The Hidden Truth” in the Hartford Classrooms

By Danielle Roberts, Op-Ed

It is no secret that teachers in an urban environment, like Hartford, face challenges.

These challenges come in the form of low test scores, environmental issues, stubborn students and apathetic parents.  But, what exactly, is at the root of these challenges?

Many are quick to blame teachers for not doing a “good enough” job, while others are quick to blame parents, for not being on the same page as teachers and fully supporting education.  But very few people point the finger at the students themselves.  And as a substitute teacher in the Hartford school system, I think it’s only fitting that in a discussion on urban education, one must first look at the students.  What type of mindset do the majority of these students have?  How do they feel about education?  Do they come to school ready and willing to learn?

The answers to these questions, as it applies to the majority of Hartford students, are a big, resounding “NO”.  I am in no way generalizing all Hartford students, but focusing on the ones who do not revere education and exude it in their dispositions.  If a student comes to school with an intense hatred towards learning, a hostile attitude, accompanied with a willingness to be disrespectful to school administration…where does that leave the teachers, both permanent and substitute alike?

It is grossly unfair to blame teachers for underperforming students when the students have made it up in their minds that they don’t want to perform in the first place.  The job of the teacher is simply to educate.  It is not to transform the mindset of students, but work on instilling knowledge in the minds of students.

So if it’s not the job of the teachers to transform the mindset of students who have a negative mentality towards education, whose job is it?  It is the job of the parents to make sure that their children enter school with the ‘right’ mindset; one that is focused on education, ambition and ultimately setting and achieving some professional goals.  Now that we have defined the roles of teacher and parents, it’s time to define the roles of the students.

It is the job of the students to have internal motivation and ambition so that they will want to make the most of their educational experience…and so they will want to do more for themselves, not just in school; but in life as well.  This internal drive should develop naturally in a child, but it should also be honed on a continuous basis by their parents and their families of origin.  Because after all, if a child is naturally passionate about school and excited about their future–but they are living in an environment where school is downplayed and education is not revered–it should only be expected that this child will begin to lose their passion and excitement towards school.  They will begin to take on the persona of the parents (who are very influential in the minds of the kids), regardless of how they initially felt.  I have experienced this firsthand.

As a substitute teacher, I often found myself trying to motivate students to complete assignments left by the classroom teacher, only to be shocked by their retorts.  “Miss, when am I going to need this stuff in real life?” and “I don’t want to be here, and my mom said that if I get bored to just call her, and she’ll come get me…so can I call her?”  This is why parents and their kids must work together; it must be a continuous, joint effort so that students enter school with a positive mindset, thus making the job of educators much easier.

If parents and students took control of the parts that they play in shaping a student’s mindset towards education, teachers would have a slightly easier job, with less unreasonable expectations placed on them.  And that’s the hidden truth.

Danielle Roberts is a substitute teacher in Hartford Public Schools and an intern with The Hartford Guardian.

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4 Comments For This Post

  1. John Dyson Says:

    Amen, my niece you are right on point. The problem is not the teachers, the problem starts with the parents at home. I know this because when I was stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. From 1996-1997 I was a substitute teacher and then I was a full time teachers assistant in a middle school in the school system there. I would get the same replies from the students. The parents would come to meetings blaming everyone except their child who was the one caught stealing or assaulting another student, this same negative attitude was displayed by the students. This was rampant across all racial lines. Keep up the good work, I am proud of you and Love you, God Bless you

  2. Robert G Raffalo Says:

    I would like to congratulate Danielle Roberts for her brave stand that she has taken in regard to why students do not learn and why test scores are low. The description that Danielle has described of students is right on target and her description of parents.

    I taught in the city of Hartford for 37-1/2 years and i coached football, baseball. basketball, girls softball, tennis while i was at Bulkely High school and Burr School from 1966-2004. I also taught Health Education and Physical Education. I agree with every discriptive word that Danielle has used to discribe the problems with the students and the parents. They were the same when i was teaching.

    Every word in your article can be applied to when I was teaching from 1970-2004 this was the main reasons for so many discipline problems that we had and also the poor attendance we had in school. Your description of what is wrong with the educational system and why scores are low and why more students are not graduating from high school were the same when I was teaching.

    Your description of the students is the main reason why there were so many discipline problems in school. Very few teachers and Administrators were strong enough to hold students accountable for their actions. Central Administration was weak and did not want to confront the community or the parents and most of all the student. Not one single board of education that I worked for in 37 years every stood up and said to the parents you have to do a better job in disciplining your childen at home and make sure your child gets to school and be sure to be there to help your child at home with his school work.. THE EXCUSE WAS ALWAYS THE PARENTS WORK AND THE CHILD IS HOME ALONE AND THEY ARE FROM A SINGLE PARENT HOME OR THEY WOULD SAY WELL HE HAS MANY SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS AND THE ENVIRONEMENT HE COMES FROM IS NOT VERY GOOD.

    IN MY OPINION AFTER BEING IN EDUCATION FOR 37 YEARS MOST TEACHERS, 98% OF THE ADMINISTRATORS, BOARDS OF EDUCATIONS, DO NOT, WILL NOT SHARE IN DANIELLE;S ASSESSMENT OF THE PROBLEMS SHE SEE’S AS A SUBSTITUTE TEACHER IN THE HARTFORD PUBLICS SCHOOLS BECASUE MOST OF THESE INDIVIDUALS DO NOT HAVE THE COUARGE, THE FORTITUDE TO STAND UP AND HOLD ALL STUDENTS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS. IN MOST CASES THOSE IN CHARGE WERE AFRAID OR SCARED TO DISCIPLINE THE UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE GOOD STUDENTS THAT WERE TRYING TO LEARN.

    IN MY OPINION WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN THE CITY OF HARTFORD IS THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE ONE SINGLE PERSON IN THE CITY THAT IS WILLING TO STAND UP AND SAY TO THE PARENTS YOU HAVETO CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE SO YOUR CHILDS ATTITUDE CAN CHANGE.

    THE PEOPLE IN POLITICS AND ON THE BOARD OF EDUCATION TALK BUT THEY ARE NOT WILLING TO TALK THE WALK. EVERY STUDENT HAS THE ABILITY TO LEARN, IF HE OR SHE WANTS TO LEARN AND EVERY PARENT HAS A CHOICE TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION OR YOU CAN BE THE CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM.

    PARENTAL SUPPORT OF THEIR CHILDS BEHAVIOR, EMPAHSIS ON GETTING AN EDUCATION, TEACHING THEIR CHILD TO RESPECT THOSE IN AUTHORITY,(TEACHERS)AND HOLDING THEIR CHILD ACCOUNTABLE FOR HIS/HER BEHAVIOR WILL REDUCE TRUANCY AND DISCIPLINE PROBLEMS WITHIN THE SCHOOL AS THESE ARE THE TWO MOST DETRIMENTAL VARIABLES THAT LEAD TO FAILURE. (excluding any serious disabilities that require special attention)

    WHEN YOU THE STATE OF CONN. AND YOU THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION PASSES A LAW THAT SAYS YOU CAN NOT MOVE TO THE NEXT GRADE LEVEL UNTIL YOU CAN READ AT THAT LEVEL.THEN AND ONLY THAN WILL YOU BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION,

    ARE YOU LISTENING MR.& MRS STATE OF CONN. LEGISLATORS AND MR& MRS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. IT IS YOUR FAULT THAT THE TEST SCORE ARE BELOW THE STANDARDS BECASUE YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO STAND UP AND SAY, DEAR MR&MRS PARENT THIS IS WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO, YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER WILL NOT MOVE TO THE NEXT GRADE UNTIL YOUR CHILD CAN READ AT THE NEXT READING GRADE LEVEL.

    WHEN YOU DO THIS THEN YOU WILL NOT HAVE STUDENTS READING AT THE 6TH GRADE LEVEL AND IN SOME CASES I HAVE HAD STUDENTS THAT WERE READING AT THE 4TH GRADE LEVEL WHEN I TAUGHT HEALTH EDUCATION AND THE STUDENT WAS GOING INTO THE 9TH GRADE.

    MR. & MRS LEGISLATOR AND MR. MOLLOY YOU SHOULD TAKE THE ARTICLE THAT DANIELLE HAS WRITTEN AND FRAME IT AND PUT IT IN YOUR OFFICE AND ON EVERY DESK FOR EACH LEGISLATOR AND READ IT EVERY DAY THE LEGISLATURE IS IN SESSION. AFTER OPENING THE SESSION READ THIS ARTICLE TO EVERYONE AND ASK WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOP THIS.

    YOU ARE PERPETUATING FALIURE BECASUE YOU DO NOT HAVE THE COURAGE OR THE FORTITUDE REQUIRE STUDENTS TO HAVE CERTAIN SKILLS WHEN ENTERING SCHOOL AND THEN DO NOT LET THEM MOVE ON TO THE NEXT GRADE LEVEL UNTIL THEY CAN READ AT THAT LEVEL. MR MOLLY ARE YOU UP TO THAT CHALLENGE?

    WHEN YOU DO THIS YOU WILL NOW BECOME THE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM AND NOT THE PROBLEM.

    MR& MRS LEGISLATOR, STOP BLAMING THE TEACHERS AND BLAME YOURSELVES INSTEAD OF WORRYING ABOUT GETTING RE=ELECTED FOR ANOTHER TERM, DO SOMETHING TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM IN THE CITY’S SCHOOLS IN HARTFORD.

    ASK YOUR SELF THIS QUESTION, WOULD I ALLOW MY SON OR DAUGHTER TO PASS TO THE NEXT GRADE IF THEY WERE NOT READING AT GRADE LEVEL.

    MR. MOLLY ANSWER THAT QUESTION OR BETTER STILL LET DANIELLE SPEAK IN-FRONT OF THE NEXT SESSION OF THE LEGISLATURE MAYBE SHE CAN CONVINCE YOU TO DO WHAT IS NOT ONLY MORALLY RIGHT BUT WHAT IS EDUCATIONALLY CORRECT.

  3. Robert G Raffalo Says:

    I wrote a reply

  4. Danielle R. Says:

    Thank you to Mr Dyson and Mr. Raffalo for your comments. Just like I stated in my article–and firmly believe–personal accountability on the part of the students is key when addressing what goes on in education. It is not fair to turn a blind eye to the role that students play in their own education, while simultaneously blaming teachers, subtitute teachers and school administration for the low test scores and students who don’t learn.

    Students need to make an effort to apply themselves and realize that they do have some control over part of their educational process. They have control over their innate ability to want to learn…their desire to learn and apply themselves.

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