A few weeks ago a Facebook friend shared with me an article published in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results.” As a “Tough Teacher,” the article was an encouragement and inspiration to me. In today’s educational climate, in spite of espousing ‘academic rigor’ as an ideal, being an exacting, demanding teacher is counter-cultural, and thus difficult because it requires defying the expectations of students, parents, and often administrators. Throughout my career as an educator, albeit brief, I have experienced almost continuous strife over students’ grades, which are in my courses are lower on average that what people are accustomed to because of my commitment to grade rigorously. Few parents appreciate this, most valuing their children getting high grades (and thus appearing to learn) over getting a great education (which requires actually learning).
If you have children in school, my aim is to convince you that your children will benefit most from such teachers and thus motivate you to support teachers that challenge and stretch your children while opposing those teachers that do not. Hard teachers get a lot more heat from parents than easy teachers do. That needs to change if education is ever going to fundamentally change in this country. The WSJ article gives 8 answers to the question in the title. Tough teachers get good results because:
1. A little pain is good for you.
2. Drill, baby, drill.
3. Failure is an option.
4. Strict is better than nice.
5. Creativity can be learned.
6. Grit triumphs talent.
7. Praise makes you week.
8. Stress makes you strong.
I will be expounding on 1 or 2 of these at a time, defending these points and explaining how these work out in practice, while at the same time giving advice on how you can use these answers to promote tough teaching in your children’s own context.