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Today’s Teacher: Educator, Motivator, and Therapist

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The stresses of poverty and trauma hit hard. On the other hand, students must deal with high academic expectations and social demands. Teachers are on the front lines as they often move between three distinct roles in today’s schools: educator, motivator, and therapist.  A recent piece in the Washington Post reports that many teachers acknowledge that factors like family stress, poverty, and psychological issues are the dominant obstacles to student progress. With exterior factors playing possibly the most important role in a child’s ability to learn, the above three were highlighted in a survey of 56 state Teachers of the Year from 2015.  Published by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic Inc., the survey reveals that many students need supplemental aid at the schools they attend in the forms of therapy, meals, after-school programs, and other programs.  “Those three factors [family stress, poverty and psychological issues] in many ways are the white elephant in the living room for us in education,” said Jennifer Dorman, Maine’s 2015 Teacher of the Year who teaches special-education classes for seventh- and eighth-graders. “As teachers, we know those factors present huge barriers to our students’ success. Helping students cope with those three factors is probably the most important part of my job. But on a national level, those problems are not being recognized as the primary obstacles.” California’s Teacher of the Year Maggie Mabery, who comes from an affluent Los Angeles suburb, shared that where dealing with pressure from strict parents can be the main anxiety on a student’s plate.  “The role of the teacher has become so much more than student learning. I teach about 50 percent of the time. The rest is coaching kids how to be responsible, how to be a great adolescent,” Mabery said.



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