My high school English literature teacher was usually hung over at our Monday class. My history teacher never changed his tie or socks, and my homeroom teacher slept her way through our basketball team. Our high school library more often than not had the volumes we needed
missing or defaced beyond use. I cannot recall ever watching a film or slide presentation without the equipment breaking down. Looking back at the chaotic study halls, the continual attempts to get around the rules and the intense student socializing, I have to wonder what the school system prepared me for. Certainly that question is periodically raised at the local and national levels. Unfortunately, the question is too focused upon the performance of the teacher and school
system rather than upon the role of the student. It is, after all, as much the students' job to learn as it is the teachers' job to teach.
Despite all of the shortcomings of all of my high school teachers, I know that every one of
them would have gone out of his way to work with students who showed any interest or aptitude for a particular subject. In the end, teachers can only teach if students are open to learn. The best teacher, the best equipment and the best textbook can only work if a student wishes to learn. And value placed on education must originate in the family; schools can only reinforce and nurture it. Ultimately the student must possess the desire and determination to succeed at learning. We make the choices.
That is not to say that making the choice to learn and to succeed is easy. Our social institutions promote instant gratification. We have fast foods, instant highs, and entertainment at the flick of a switch. Teachers cannot compete. A novel does...