Professional Problem Identifier

For a long time I have questioned how a teacher can be compassionate but also maintain high standards. A teacher with this combination of qualities is sometimes called a warm demander. I love that phrase, but for a long time I was confused about how to be one.

I still don't have all the answers, but I think I understand better now. The trick, it seems to me, is to identify problems without placing blame or making assumptions.

If a student has a problem, like regularly turning work in late, it's an absolute imperative to address it. But addressing the problem doesn't mean assuming that you know how to solve it. Instead, tell the student that there is a problem and ask them why it's happening. Then, work together to find and implement a solution.

Sometimes the problem will be the student's fault, and holding them to a higher standard is needed. Other times there will be deeper causes that are not necessarily the student's fault. In that case, the student will be happy to have an ally who can help them solve the problem.

Or at least, they'll be happy when the problem is solved. Addressing problems isn't always fun, but it is always necessary, and that's why the role of professional problem identifier is so valuable.