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Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Passion for Teaching and Opinions

An interesting debate from a teacher blog in California.


Just "Cowboy up and get to work".

I am often amazed at the ability of education pundits, those that haven't stepped one foot in the classroom, to constantly blame teachers for the problems of the educational system. While I fully admit that teachers could be doing more (God knows that I mentioned that we need to represent our profession better many times on this blog), I disdain the fact that society and the government constantly don't admit the other factors in the education of children; student apathy, parent apathy, little funding, and idiot testing, really matter.

Take for instance Friends of Dave (blogroll), who is a fellow Ukiah blogger who made the common reference to "other jobs have less than favorable conditions so teachers should stop bitching" argument.

    I think all too often in public education, we continue the same strategies year after year and we blame student apathy, parent apathy, too little funding or high-stakes testing for our failed teaching practices and educational strategies. If the goal of public education is to educate students, we can't stop trying simply because students or parents aren't making it easy. As I've said before, fireman don't ignore fires that are started by dumb decisions made by a homeowner. Police don't ignore calls from people who have made bad choices. Doctors don't stop treating fat people because they made bad diet and exercise choices.

First of all, California constantly makes the mistake of CHANGING teaching strategies that have worked in the past to satisfy.......well, someone who was bored I guess. You could hate "drill and kill" to death, but the memorization of multiplication tables sure worked a hell of a lot better than that "whole math" crap.

Now for the "fireman, policeman, doctor" remark, which is often used when non-classroom related people decide to pop off about what's right for education. Last I remember, firemen, doctors, and police are all given the tools of the game to make learning work. No, I'm not talking about gimmicky learning programs or "one laptop per child" tools, I'm talking about schools that are palaces and not dirty, in disrepair, or straight out crumbling. I also don't remember doctors being told, "you don't get O2 today", cops being told, "you don't get bullets today", or firemen being told, "sorry, your allotment of water was used up this week". In many cases, a teacher is ill-equipped for the job, ill-supported for the job, and then told to preform. Donald Rumsfeld was basically fired for saying, "You go to war with the Army that you have, not the Army you want", but teachers are told that every day.

And by the way, firemen are never blamed for starting the fire, policemen are never blamed for committing the crime, and doctors aren't blamed for people getting fat. Teachers are most certainly a target of blame for the lack of education of children, even though they have no control over a multitude of variables. Teachers still teach, firefighters fight fires, police control crime, and doctors treat patients, but only one of those is actually held accountable at the end of the day to entities that they have no control over; the other factors of a student's life. Firefighters aren't held accountable for the meth lab fire, they put it out. Police aren't held accountable for the domestic violence, they arrest the suspect. Doctors aren't held accountable for patients getting diabetes, they simply try and treat the condition. Yet teachers are somehow given lessor tools, more government oversight, less pay, and are supposed to be held to a greater accountability over things they have no control over?

    The duty of public education is to educate. If our instructional strategies aren't working for large groups of our students, but other schools are having better success with the same students, we need to stop whining and making excuses and start looking to those successful schools for the answer. Schools aren't relieved of the responsibility to educating students simply because they're making it hard. Cowboy up and get to work.

Simply put, not nearly as easy to implement. I'm sure that the income of "successful schools" has plenty to do with it. Anyone that doesn't think that schools with money are more successful are in dreamland. Then add it Second Language Learners, increased Special Education populations, lack of money, sue-happy parents, towns with increased drug culture, lack of money, equipment from the 1990's, shoddy infrastructure, a district wide lack of vision or business sense, oh yea, and lack of funding. You say that California spends over half its budget on Education? Ok, when it walks into my classroom let me know. While your at it, let me know when you find a successful school that manages to operate through all these problems. I'll be glad to jump on board.

In the meantime, until you make every effort to supply teachers with the tools needed to succeed, stop blaming them.

Oh yeah, while I'm making this blog post, I'm doing the following:
-updating my Moodle for the classes
-instant messaging with a student about an assigned book; Persepolis
-communicating with another student on Facebook about attending U.C. Irvine

I also graded essays this evening. Doctors, firemen, nor policemen take that kind of work home with them.

Yee hah.

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