As we begin a new school year, I found out that my 9-year-old dog who I have had since he was a nine-week-old puppy probably has cancer. It is only probably because the conclusive diagnostic test is very expensive and the results would not have an impact on how we treat him because cancer treatments are very expensive and do not add much to the animal's lifespan and deteriorate the quality in the final days.
Teachers, especially those of a transitional grade, like 6th or 9th,
appear to have to make similar decisions. You have limited
information--what's in their records and what you see in front of you.
While financial resources are an issue, the hardest to deal with is time and space. You have to make teaching decisions that are based on
what you believe will benefit the most students possible (and remember that ability is not the only factor in teaching, especially with such an open subject as English) while fitting into the limited block of time that you have these students in front of you and within the confines of the classroom (and I don't know about you, but some days, I find the latter to be the harder to deal with). Decisions that you make at the beginning of the year set the tone and the structure for the year to come. You hope that you have made the right decision, not because you cannot change your mind later, but because once a routine is started, it's hard to get students to buy into a new one, which just means that you have to take more time, which as we discussed before, is a limited commodity. You do not want to look back and realize that your decision caused pain and frustration and not just to the students.
Now I will admit that I hope that the results of my teaching practices
are not just palliative, like the decision that I made for my baby, but help expand my students' understanding
and critical thinking, though truthfully I know that there are some who
will take nothing from my class. For those I take a more Hippocratic
approach and instead pray that I have done no harm.