Saturday, June 03, 2006

Blaming the teachers

Yeah, you're a big help

At times such as these, I'm especially grateful to be teaching at the college level. My fellow educators have a much rougher row to hoe in the primary and secondary schools. The pressure is particularly bad now at the high schools, given the on-going drama of the exit-exam requirement for graduation. Fortunately, some people know what to do.

From the May 30, 2006, Letters to the Editor:

Holding teachers responsible

Why are people criticizing students for not passing the exit exam? When are teachers going to be held accountable for not doing their jobs?

How often are the teachers tested? You can't teach what you don't know. You don't start with the student; you start with the teacher.

I am not speaking of teachers who are not afraid to step outside the box to make a difference in a student's life, or teachers who take more than their lesson plan to the classroom each day. There are some great teachers. However, the principals should hire teachers with people skills, not just academic skills. The students need teachers with broad minds who knows how to communicate their subject matter effectively.

A. Pittman, Sacramento

Oh, geez. Is Pittman really recommending that we test teachers each year? First of all, you can't even become a teacher without a credential (in your subject area) earned from a recognized educational institution. (I know there are a bunch of “emergency credentials” out there, but the shortage of teachers is a whole 'nother problem.) That is, we test teachers before they even begin the job. Then, of course, we have continuing education guidelines, both for staying current and to earn salary advancement. If anyone is worrying that teachers don't know their subject matter, they're focused on one of the less significant problems in education. (By the way, if you want to attract those less-qualified teachers, vote against funds for your schools so that they can't afford to hire fully credentialed staff.)

Finally, what is this business of shifting responsibility away from the students? Sure, most students need plenty of instruction and assistance if they are going to succeed in school, but success is always ultimately up to the student. As someone once said (please tell me the source, if you know): “Good teaching is most effective in the happy circumstance when it's not even necessary.” We can't teach students against their will. We can inspire or cajole them only so far.

Perhaps Pittman has children who are not doing well in school and is looking for someone to blame. Try looking in a mirror. Do you follow your children's progress, encourage them to do their homework, and provide study space away from distractions where they can concentrate? But maybe complaining about teachers is easier.

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