Tuesday, October 19, 2010

musings on education

I have to say, I'm sick of teachers being made the scapegoat/punching bag/reason for "what's wrong with education in America." The teachers I have seen throughout my life have been amazing people who care passionately about children and, really, the future of our world. They have been people who give more of themselves and their time and their lives than most others would ever consider giving. Are there bad teachers out there? Yes. But they are the exception, not the rule.


There seems to be a misconception out there that teachers can simply wave their Magic Teacher Stick and make each and every child a perfect, straight A student. This is a ludicrous and unfair assumption. Teachers see their students a limited amount of time each day. And, really, they can only work with what they are given. Granted, most teachers will bend over backwards and jump through hoops of fire to help their students learn and achieve and become caring, responsible people. But.... What about kids who come from families where no importance is placed on education? Where kids go home to empty houses each day? Where there is no one helping them with homework, or even making sure that homework is done? What about kids who consistently misbehave? Who consistently disrupt class? Who do not or will not do their school work? Who are absent from school more than they are present? There's that old saying... You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.


There has been talk for some time of "merit pay" for teachers; where salary is based on students' standardized test scores. This seems ludicrous, too. What about students like Little Johnny, who works hard every single day and has a great attitude and tries his best in everything, has wonderful, caring parents who work with him and his teachers, but will never pass a standardized test because he simply does not have the IQ to pass a standardized test, but will go on to be a fine, upstanding, productive citizen because of his great attitude and work ethic, despite having not passed any standardized test. What about Little Andy, who is very bright and capable, but completely unmotivated and apathetic and has no one at home who cares about that (or, seemingly, him), and no matter what anyone at school does or says, he will not put effort into his school work, if he does any school work at all, and when he takes a standardized test, uses the bubbles to try and make a picture of a gun.


If there is going to be a merit pay system for teachers, I think there should be some kind of merit system for parents, too. If a child misses a certain number of days of school, doesn't turn in a certain percentage of homework, receives a certain number of disciplinary actions, etc., then someone comes to the home and informs the parents that they are not doing an effective job of parenting, and their child will be taken and placed with a family who can do a better job. Kind of like the charter school option.


I saw a segment on a news show recently where a teacher had just totally lost it in his classroom and was screaming and throwing things to the ground. This was a 21 year veteran teacher who had come from a family of teachers. Everyone was commenting on the teacher's behavior. No one seemed to be saying anything about the disrespectful way the students were behaving before the teacher snapped. And I couldn't help but totally and completely understand why that poor fellow had snapped at all. After all, how long, how many days/weeks/months/years can a person be de-valued and disrespected before they are just done? And that's what I see happening. Each year there is a little less value and a little less respect for teachers and the teaching profession in general. Does that seem wrong to anyone else?


I don't think businessmen have any business at all telling educators how to educate children. After all, teachers aren't in the business of turning a profit. Teachers go to work each day to help their students become kind, caring, respectful, intelligent, thinking people.


Teachers are only one part of a child's education. The parents and children need to step up to their responsibilities, too. A table with just one leg can only balance for so long before it falls down.


InTheFastLane said...

I am not sure why the current atmosphere is to blame the teacher, but there is so much more that goes into an education.

I could write a whole blog post, and I think i will :)

Michele R said...

Great post!! Found you from In the Fast Lane. people need to realize that a charter school requires a promise in writing from the parent to follow rules....or the child has to leave...but the reg public school has to take whatever walks in the door and mold it. Plus, there are no bonuses for a teacher who does happen to achieve raising test scores, successful students, or whatever the measurement may be (as compared to many in the corporate world).
P.S. I'm not a teacher.

Erin said...

This is brilliant. As a teacher, THANK YOU. Lately, I feel like a punching bag with all the negativity directed toward teachers, and I wish people knew that most of us work very hard and truly do care.

Lyndsay said...

I have so much respect for you and for all teachers who give their blood, sweat, and tears for their students. I'm sorry the media has been throwing you under the bus.

And yikes. A merit system? Seriously? Perhaps doctors should be paid according to how many of their patients get better?

Jade @ Tasting Grace said...

So true. I hate how much importance people like to place on standardized tests simply because it's the easiest way to mark progress and achievement - never mind that it isn't the most reliable or most valid way of doing so.

It seems like there's a larger trend of disrespect towards authority going on here, and undervaluing of education and elites. I'm not saying people shouldn't challenge authority or place demands on authority figures (that is indeed central to democracy), but you can challenge authority and still treat them with respect. This trend is often coupled with a lack of personal responsibility - and so things just fall apart.

::sigh:: It's a tough situation and teachers like you who pull and sweat and put in the extra time and effort deserve the utmost respect.

Hang in there.