Friday, July 11, 2008

I am not one of the Wrong Teachers but I am Hot

Why are public schools so bad at hiring good instructors? This is what Slate's "Hot for the Wrong Teachers" wants to know.


The article raises some interesting points. For example, a master's degree in education does not seem to be a predictor of future success as a teacher. Here, here. Yes, some classes are enriching and helpful, but that it is wholly dependent on your professors and program. Most of the time, it's just a big time suck that takes me away from planning lessons.

An apprenticeship program of considerable length is preferable to giving a new teacher 6 weeks of "training" as the Teaching Fellows and Teach for America programs do. I hear over and over again from other fellows that our training did not prepare them at all. I think that is probably the case for most people who switch careers and have no classroom experience other than their own years as a student.

Here's where the author gets it wrong. Yes, we should wonder, "What if there were a way to screen out the bad teachers before they get entrenched?" Yes, we do get our union cards the first day, but you'd have to be insane to want to go to the Rubber Room (which this author calls the "golden parachute out of teaching." Some golden parachute).

What about all the wasted potential in promising teachers who are hired to work in schools under incompetent, uninspiring, ineffectual or mismanaging administrators? Being a principal or an AP is a very hard job. That's no excuse for unintentionally (or intentionally) screwing up or derailing teaching careers. Let's get some accountability for the people at the top, some of whom are really entrenched, and I'm talking about more than just expecting them to hire good teachers.

And maybe it does take some gumption to do battle with a the teachers union. But it also takes gumption on the part of the teacher.


Camille said...

for serious.

i'm about to slice everyone in the office at every elem. school in Gainesville. They've spent almost all the money they got this year (which isn't very much to begin with) on awful teachers, INSTEAD OF HIRING ME.


and they cut art and music in Alachua county.


I miss youuuuu

Winky said...

Maybe it's because teaching (at least in primary school) was mostly something single ladies did before they got married, so our society is still rather ineffectual and gives low priority when it comes to one of core values of a supposedly American upbringing. As long as they get a diploma, degree, masters...who cares if it actually means something?

There are several communities around the country where parents are extremely involved in their children's education and they stay on top of the school to keep test scores up, keep the students motivated, etc.

But making sure our schools are actually giving our students a worthwhile education, giving them a passion for knowledge, helping them figure out how to think, supplying them with tools to improve the world we live in, seems like a luxury, because at least in Miami I can attest to at least four different school communities where many parents/guardians do not have the time--and if they do they don't care--to bother with their child's future.

I think it's a sad commentary on this country that teachers must be warned that their chosen profession will not make them a great fortune and at the same time there is an abundance of shockingly mediocre teachers who may or may not have an effect on their students, but there are even more really exceptional people who are:
1. ignored by the school system.
2. viewed as extravagant expenses rather than wise investments.

It's enough to make me want to start a charter school, but those don't really help the problem.