Teacher responsibility for bad gradesPlease respond to the following quote: A person doesn't blame his or her dentist for a cavity. Why is the teacher blamed for his or her "F".

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Teachers are responsible for the preparation and teaching of the lessons.  They should attempt to motivate the students who find it hard to buy into the learning setting and the other students as well.  The instructors should try to do the best they can with whatever materials are available to create the best learning situation possible for all the students in the class. 

In today's world, students need more than one way to learn a concept.  Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic approaches should be included when working with students that have difficulty in understanding the material.

 Prepared and motivated teachers will challenge 95% of their students to want to at least try to do they best that they can.

How is this relevant to the question? The other 5% or more of students who do not to learn, have no parental help, and are in the midst of puberty or some other emotional upheaval--the teacher may not be able to help them.  Eventually, one has to accept the fact that some students will not do what is needed to pass the tests or complete the work.

Again, here are the problems:

  • The teacher cannot be assured that there is a parent who is monitoring the student's study skills while he is at home. Students fail to succeed in school because of poor time management skills and procrastination at home.  
  • Neither can the teacher compete with the student's job at MacDonald's that keeps him up until 1:00 a.m.
  • Further, there may have been a break down in instruction somewhere along the way caused by moving to different schools, divorce of parents, and all those life experiences that children are expected to handle and go on as though nothing had happened
  • Students fail to succeed in school because of poor time management skills and procrastination
  • There are underachievers in most classes. These are the highly intelligent students who have decided that there are more important things to do than their school work.

For that bottom 5%, the well-prepared teacher cannot accept responsibility for their grades. 

durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To connect the dentist and the teacher, the reference would really have to be to whether the dentist successfully fills the cavity sufficiently for the person to continue as before. The teacher is not responsible for what arrives in his or her classroom at the beginnning of the year but any good teacher would definitely feel some responsibility for the achievement (or lack thereof) at the end of ther school year when those same students leave the classroom.

Thank you #9 for your insighful words. I will be applying the same in my environment.

There are two important aspects for me regarding who is responsible

parents and


Parents must accept their role in their children's upbringing but as one of the previous contributors pointed out, there seems to be no accountability. By sending their children to school, some parents think they have fulfilled their obligations and the rest is up to the school.

Criticizing teachers is the norm and when parents criticize, the children then have an outlet and do not need to accept responsibility. Just blame the teacher instead of looking for the underlying cause.

This is why communication is so crucial. there is a distinct breakdown in communication as students do not tell parents when teachers want to see them or parents get too busy and forget to keep appointments, hoping the problem will resolve itself.

It's also not so trendy to get involved in school anymore. More and more students are being subjected to and submitting to negative outside influences.

 Surrounded by many anti- intellectual trends of American culture, the professor is further limited by the impossibility of measuring the really important effects one hopes to have on students.

That's why parents need to make a stand and HELP the teachers in the pursuit of excellence for their children.


Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the post above that teachers do have a bit more culpability that dentists to our respective professions, but I do understand the question at the heart of the matter.  To me, I don't think a teacher should be held accountable for the failure of an individual student, but I do think a teacher's failure rate does give some indication of the type of teacher they are.  Of course every situation is unique, but if a teacher is failing fifty percent of his students then perhaps there is a problem with the methods of the teacher as well as the work of the students.  Again, each situation is unique and should be judged as such, but if I were an administrator and one of my teachers was failing even 15% of their students I would feel the need to dig deeper into the situation and get a better handle on what is going on in that classroom.  Maybe that teacher has five students that have terrible academic track records and that is the reason for the skewed numbers, but it might be that the teacher isn't holding himself accountable the learning of all of his students.

dhollweg eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a lot of good points here. I can't help but think that our profession is one of constant self-reflection (another hallmark of a good teacher, too). Looking at data and pre-assessments or data from formative assessments that are, hopefully, connected to the summatives we provide or that our school / departments have commonly agreed on, has to be a part of our practice. Knowing what skills are essential for kids to have to succeed on a summative or final exam will guide us in our instruction. Then as I walk them through a formative model, where they practice plenty, where I do direct instruction and modeling and slowly and gradually release them in order to master those skills independently, then I really do feel at ease with the grade the student has earned. But if I'm assessing them on skills that I haven't directly instructed, where my classroom didn't slow down for me to model and allow them to work together, if I've just simply "assigned" material all day, week, quarter and didn't necessarily teach it, then that grade is on me.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Teachers are often blamed for bad grades simply because of the trend in today's society to avoid responsibility and enable children. The old line of "the teacher doesn't like me," has been around since time immemorial; sadly however in this age of enabling and permissive parenting, it is all too easy for a child to successfully blame the teacher for the child's own failure. No teacher worth his/her salt has a high failure rate without first critiquing his/her own performance. Sadly, however, "blame the teacher" has now become the mantra of parents as well as students. The day in which parents accepted a teacher's word without question has been superseded by those who accept the student's word over the teachers--and students not only know it, they are able to use it to their advantage.  The problem is societal; and until parents insist that children assume responsibility for their own actions, nothing will change.


lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with some of the above posts. the teacher often gets more blame than he or she should. I do believe that students need to take responsibility for their own grades. However, as a teacher, I do hold myself responsible for teaching the material to the best of my ability. The real issue is that some students do not apply themselves, no matter how hard I try to teach. In that case, I work hard to change attitudes toward learning. It is rewarding when a student decides to learn. I guess blaming a teacher for a student's failing grade comes along with the territory. I enjoy the reward of a student who makes a decision to learn, but I do not have to accept all the blame when a student does poorly. 

hillaryrb eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I agree with all of the sentiments posted above, and will not beat a dead horse, so to speak, but I do want to add one thing: documentation is key! If your lesson and unit plans and data folders demonstrate pre-assessment opportunities to determine the prior knowledge of the students to influence your instruction, adequate teacher modeling and multiple opportunities for multimodal guided and independent practice, and show that you have used informal and formal assessment throughout to provide enrichment or reteaching/intervention as needed, then there is no justifiable way the F can be pinned on the teacher!
mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This issue is becoming more visible as grades and homework go on-line for parents to view.  As vouchers and charter schools become a bigger part of the discussion, grades will come into play also, and I fear that holding students accountable and high standards or expectations may diminish.  The most important issue here is that students are expected to learn and teachers are expected to teach, both to the best of their ability. Students earn their grades, and hopefully parents will be able to connect the dots of missing work or poor test grades with the final grade for the class.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can’t really say that I agree with that.  I do think that we teachers get too much blame when students do badly in our classes.  That said, we are not as detached from responsibility as the dentist is from responsibility for the cavity.  The dentist sees us once every six months while we see the student every day.  We have much more opportunity to actually get through to the student than the dentist does with us.  So, I don’t think this quote is really accurate, but I agree with the general idea that teachers should not get as much blame as they do for student failure. 

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a teacher, I have never neglected to prepare students adequately for the assignments and tests that eventually lead to a final grade. That includes repeated reminders--through begging and pleading when necessary--of the importance of being timely with study and the turning in of required work. Yet many students wait until it is too late before buckling down, and the only adults that should be blamed are the parents who fail to monitor their children's academic progress.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I completely agree with the sentiments posted by #6 above; however, I have seen many situations in public schools where teachers are simply teaching students and not being responsible for ensuring students learn.  Classes that have high failure rates deserve to be scrutinized to see if it is a student problem or a teacher problem.  Simply delivering instruction doesn't match my philosophy of what education is all about.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I love to use this analogy!  Just like dentists, teachers have conditions that they cannot control.  We cannot control the innate ability of our students, or how much they had for breakfast.

That being said, there is a lot in our control.  We do establish the parameters to make learning possible, even against all odds.  Yes, children live in poverty.  However, we still have to teach them!

wifii213 | Student

In some cases yes, but parents are also responsible of such. We need to keep in mind that our parents are our very first teachers. It's their responsibility to teach their children to develop good qualities and discipline. A child normally grows up with his/her parents present to serve as a guide. If parents don't even care about their child or they're not monitoring their child, then that's very bad.

So the teachers can't take all the blame. Being a teacher is not easy. Especially when they handle spoiled and stubborn classes. It stresses them alot and that's why teachers nowadays never mind about the students' unacceptable behavior. They do their job the best they can without getting stressed out too much. But of course this doesn't apply to all teachers. 

Overall, the parents are mostly responsible 'cause it's their job to discipline their child at an early age. Cause disciplining a teenager will make things hard because they have a mind of their own.

belladona | Student

When a student gets a bad grade, they usually blame it on a teacher. They do this because it is the teacher's responsibilty to teach the student what they need to know and what they had to do to prepare for the upcoming test. Although, the student most likely did not study at all, which then leaves the teacher blameless. As long as they tried to teach and prepare the student, then it isn't their fault that the student did badly.

abadoodle | Student

it is not always the teacher's fault if the student fails. Yes, there are times when it is their fault, bunt most of the times it is the student's fault. Take it from me (a student), I have had my share of bad teachers, but I have also learned not to blame them most of the time. Last year,I had this teacher who couldn't teach math to save her life, and even though I tried getting help in her class, I would end up more confused than when I had originally asked for help. So yes, that one was the teacher's fault. But I have also had classes where I failed on my own accord, in my Human Development class I had thought it was so easy and that as I long as I got A's on the tests, I wouldn't have to do my homework. I was very wrong and almost failed the class.I would have failed if my teacher hadn't cared enough to talk to me and let me turn in all of the work that I had zeros on. So as a result I learned that I have to do my work and that some teachers care more about your grades then you think. So don't blame the teachers if you're the one who isn't turning in your work, and learn from me, some teachers really do care about you and your grades so don't blow them off when they tell you that you are about to fail their class. If a teacher tries to help you and you don't accept their help, then it's not their fault, it's yours.

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