Different Teachers Shouldn't Determine Your Future
March 22nd, 2019
I write this in the midst of our last major assignment in our U.S. history class, a second-semester term paper. We all knew this assignment was coming, and I had been expecting our teacher to give us an assignment sheet for a few days, as many of my friends with different teachers had received them already. When we eventually got them (on the same day we turned in a project that our teacher had assigned, one due days earlier than the other teachers for our grade), we didn’t get the same assignment as the other classes. Theirs was due in May. Ours is due April 18th, just before spring break, and had been assigned March 7th. Each major “checkpoint” was at most a week after the last. We needed a topic choice and a preliminary bibliography in 5 days; then an annotated preliminary bibliography a week after that, then tons of notes in five days, then the final bibliography just under a week after that, an outline just three days after that, a week to draft it, and a week to edit it.
In fairness, our paper is shorter than the one assigned to the other classes, and our teacher wanted to assign it due before the break so we wouldn’t have to write it over break. I don’t want to write this as a polemic against a “bad teacher,” as I like my history teacher. One might make the case that as compressed as these deadlines seemed to us looking at them for the first time, they aren’t impossible—maybe a short paper due earlier is better than having a longer paper hanging over your head. But I’d rather have more time to devote to one paper, time that allows me to be confident I’ve done each step well, rather than scramble to find books and do extensive note taking over a matter of days for a shorter paper that will feel rushed.
But that’s beside the point. What really annoys me about this is that it highlights how this school can be a dream or a nightmare for a student by no fault of their own, simply because they had a different teacher for the same class. Not only was our paper due at a different point, but it was also on an entirely different subject, researching things the other classes aren’t going nearly as in-depth in. It might as well have been assigned to a different US history class entirely, but we’re ostensibly taking the same class, just with different teachers. For the purposes of the almighty transcript, report cards, and colleges, we are taking the same class. But we’re not doing the same things in that class. What sense does that make?
This obviously goes beyond any one paper or test or incident where the teacher’s decision causes different results for students based simply on their teacher—if your teacher is a harsh grader, you become a worse student on the record, and vice versa. Why should a student’s success, or really even what class they end up taking, be tied solely to the personalities and inclinations of their teacher? Why do we not all take the same tests, do the same projects, read the same readings, watch the same documentaries, do the same things for the same class? Obviously a school can’t make our teachers robots (yet), and teaching style usually isn’t the problem. But having had years of friends in other classes giving stories like “oh yeah that teacher spent the whole last class on the phone,” or “oh that class was really easy he just gave us a worksheet and put on a documentary every day,” or “man that teacher really gives hard tests,” I have to wonder whether I can really say I’ve taken the same classes as any of them.