Teachers often complain about the sheer number of things they are expected to do in their job. Emails circulate listing the various ‘jobs’ a teacher does: social worker, nurse, career planner, coach, librarian, mentor, parent, and more. As I reflect back on this school year I’ve been thinking about the various things a school does or might be expected to do.
My school serves a population of students who have many needs; linguistic, financial, emotional, etc. Obviously, as a school we can’t fill in all these gaps. However, we do try to help out where we can. We offer English language classes to parents and other community members during the school day and in the evenings. Teachers have driven students to school for evening events and home afterward. Teachers or other staff members have driven students and/or parents to see a doctor, dentist, or mental health professional to help with paperwork, especially when there is no insurance.
I’m wondering about the role and limitation of the school. What should a school be doing? Where does it end?
Obviously, our responsibility is the education of the students. It is easy to simply draw a line that divides educational duties apart from everything else. I believe our students deserve better from us. I’m unwilling to abdicate responsibility simply because something is not clearly related to my educational duty. My students deserve every opportunity to be successful and sometimes that requires more from me or from my school.
But a school can’t be everything to everyone. At some point we can’t or shouldn’t be involved. Where is that line? Does the line differ at different schools? Should I be doing more at my Title I school than a teacher at a school in a middle-class neighborhood? How do we help students whose parents can’t or won’t care for them properly? What is the role of a school in our society?