Monday, August 29, 2016

Teachers: The Short End of a Stick

It's been more than a year that I have been educating my son at home and we love it. This experience totally works for us and I do feel guilty that I didn't start sooner however, Vincent reminds me that his 4th grade teacher was awesome and he would have hated to miss that opportunity.

What made her awesome? As he explains it, there was no homework unless you didn't finish something in class; he spent the school year learning about the agriculture industry specifically in Illinois and it was hands on; she was fair and talked about taking responsibility when you were not being nice; and she made learning fun through games.
(Though her penchant  for homework ruffled feathers from admin & some alpha parents, she continued to teach her way and has received numerous accolades in her field).

Just like there are a percentage of bad cops versus good cops, everyone seems to ignore the latter. Teachers fall under that same ruling. Yes, I have witnessed some horrible teachers who are there for the paycheck and vacation days. But that's not all of them. There are teachers that have gone to college for the specific objective to receive a degree in a specialization in education. The courses are quite thorough and students learn the latest in research regarding how children learn, what is the best way to teach certain types of children, classroom management, incorporating technology, the list goes on and on. They do the equivalent of clinical hours in a school for almost two semesters and take a state exam for certification. They are professionals.

Now let's take a moment and take a look at the general expectations of a professor at a university. First, they either tend to have a doctorate or a masters (community college) to teach college students. Their boss tends to be a Dean of a school and pretty much the professor has the autonomy to select what materials will be taught in their class and how he or she will teach it (though this is changing). The Dean doesn't get involved. The Dean has a mission for the department and expects each professor to incorporate it in their curriculum. Of course, professors have more flexibility than teachers in regards to their schedule, etc. but my point here is that the treatment of professors should be the same for teachers.

Hence, a teacher should be allowed to create their own curriculum for the classroom and choose whatever materials and resources they want to achieve their goals. If the teacher decides they don't want to use a textbook. Then that's it; they don't. They should have the ability to understand what the school's mission is for each student and incorporate it in their lesson plans.
Instead, they walk in to be stripped from all the knowledge and experience they have learned in college to be told to use a textbook, must adhere to state/federal guidelines on what is taught, use a specific software, and pass standardized tests. They must meet a quota and can't stray from it. And this is only the surface of it.

Mind you, there are teachers that are so organized they can find loopholes to teach their way and make it fun for kids but it is exhausting. So when that Jimmy kid acts up, it ruins everything. You are at your wits end and it really isn't the student's fault.

I read about Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates meeting with principals and administrators and the occasional teacher, on best practices for learning, and then investing money in it. Tsk tsk. What they should be doing themselves is reading on the top research about education and then sitting down with teachers from different cities and different grade levels (focus group anyone?) to find out what really needs to happen. Hell, have them drop in to an average public school and be a substitute for a week. That's right, no warning, drop in, look at a teacher's lesson binder and go. Ha!

We have a long way to go.....

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