Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What Do Teachers Teach?

I promise, this is not another rant about how ignorant some teachers seem to be. I'm just wondering....

Why do some teachers decide to teach?

That old saying, "Those who can, do, and those who can't, teach," doesn't hold true these days. Getting into teaching isn't easy. It's at least four years of college, plus your requirements for certification. I once looked into getting my teacher certification. It was going to take as much time as a Master's degree, so I went for the Master's instead.

And it doesn't pay the big bucks, so that's not a draw.

Some people just love kids, I'm sure. They love being with them and watching them learn. They care about quality assignments that spark higher order thinking. They are the ones you see getting awards from Disney and such. They see a kid struggling, they help. They gladly work with the parents, too, and get them involved in improving their child's education. Those are the ones who have a place in their hearts for "their" kids. Year after year, those kids come back to hug them and say "Thanks for making a difference."

Those are the ones who made the right career choice. Those are not the ones in the majority of schools where the majority of our kids are.

Or so I'm convinced.

Take this lovely piece of crap I'm dealing with right now, by way of a fine example. She has a 10-year-old student who slipped from A/B grades to C/D grades within three weeks. Three weeks. Three. Fifteen school days. At the beginning of the school year, she made sure the parents knew how much she looooved having their children in her class. "Ah believe in communication," she twanged. "Ah always keep mah parents informed."


This child's parents were shocked to see the three-week progress report. They worried and talked to the teacher about the change in their child. They worried and worked out a plan for getting work done to improve this child's grades and attitude. "Ah'll get that raht to you," twanged the teacher.

The progress report went home thirteen school days ago. The semester ends tomorrow. No work has gone home. The child's mother has all but begged that teacher to send home the work, to acknowledge their conversation in some way. She gets nothing.

I don't mean she got an answer to her messages that she didn't like. I mean the poor woman and her child are out in the cold. No response. Nothing. Like they don't exist.

The mother has even contacted the principal. Still nothing, and what's to be done?

I don't know, but I worry for that child. She's fully aware of her teacher's indifference. She's aware of the principal's indifference.

Not that he was a pillar of sensitivity in the first place. He's heard me holler often enough about his foolishly planned school activities, that inevitably alienate some of the kids. Things like "Twin Day" where they must pair up and dress just like their best friend. Or the 50s Day "Poodle Parade" where you must be wearing a poodle skirt to participate. Or a special assembly for kids who haven't been tardy -- as though getting their siblings ready and driving the car to school is in their control.

Nonetheless, she's aware. And sad. No one likes to feel that they aren't liked.

So, I have to wonder, why did this woman and that man get into teaching? Not for the kids' sakes. And I also have to wonder something more bothersome -- what have they taught this particular child?


Ms.L said...

We had a teacher take my son from a "brilliant child,advanced well above his peers' to a kid needing 'extra help"(which involved a 100page workbook of letters to print out,in FIVE days!)
from a day one of school to day two.
Grumble grumble grumble.
I thought the same of her,but fixed her wagon and ours too,by pulling my kiddo out of the system all together.
The teacher makes ALL the difference.Had we had one,who actually gave a shit,and didn't fly off the handle with me,because I DARED to disagree with her,things might have turned out differently.

Uh oh,I feel a rant coming on,lol,I'd better stop!
A subject near and dear to my heart;p

Blogget Jones said...

Oh, I hear ya! That's how we ended up in private school for a few years, until their curriculum went downhill. I've learned that you can't be passive with any school -- your child's education depends on you being present in everything they do.

I work with homeschooling curriculum a lot and have a Master's in Education, so my kids' teachers figure out pretty fast that I know where they're falling down on the job. I'm a very vocal and involved parent. Sometimes, I get the feeling they think, "Oh a working mom. She won't be around." Guess again.

My daughter moves on to middle school next year. We've been at this elementary school for five years, with two kids, and I'm sure they'll be relieved to not have my name crossing their desks anymore.

Applause to you for taking a stand with your child's education! That takes a lot of day-to-day dedication to homeschool properly. Many times, I've wished I had that option. Still, I do what I can to supplement my kids' schooling, but in a fun way so that don't feel they're in school all the time. The three of us are blessed with an insatiable curiosity, so we feed off of one another!

Thanks for posting and more power to ya, sister!

Parenthetical Thinker said...

I looked into getting my degree in Education. Took one class as an undergrad - this would have been 1995 or so. I took a 'History of Education' class because it was something that would count to my then major - History (ended up as a minor in the end, though) - and it was something that would count towards a B.S. in Education.

BS is the appropriate name for that degree. The PHD student teaching the class was great. The undergrads in there with me were not so great. I kept looking around at their indiference to the subject matter and wondering 'these people will be my peers?' as I saw their glazed eyes.

Ugh. Not for me. I tried again a few years later (2002) and took one grad-level course on my way to a MS/Certification program in Language Ed. More of the same, only now everyone can use big words because they're in grad school. Actually - that group was a little better than the kids earlier, but not by a lot.

I just think Education is one of those fall-back options for people. They may psych themselves up for it, but eventually, the truth comes out. They wanted the lifestyle (summers off, long holidays, being around kids, being the one in charge, etc.) and didn't sign up for the monotony, boredome, burnout, and bureacracy (how do you spell that?) that is modern American public education.

Blogget Jones said...

Well, in my case, it isn't a fallback career. It's my second career. Wait, it might be my third....

I'm pretty specialized in this field, though. My focus is instructional design for distance learning. I'm all about trashing the traditional classroom model.

I've known some excellent teachers, but they devoted themselves to challenging the "tired and true" (no, not a typo). They pour blood, sweat, and tears into their lessons and into making sure kids are LEARNING. I admire them.

The others are in it for the holidays.