My parents , both teachers warned me that being a teacher is sometimes a thankless job. I entered teaching anyway. I collected lots of prizes and helped a lot of students, and spent a great deal of personal money, and was helped by many organizations to be the best I could be. You know what! It worked, but now there is a set of pundits, politicians, and policy makers who are being given bogus information and targeting teachers as the cause of difficulty in education. I won’t even discuss what is going on in my city of Washington , DC where people are ” Waiting for Superman”. Schools require many factors for success, here are several viewpoints!! It is hard for politicians to know the learning landscape. They should be advised. Minute new does not use the inverted V. I ask you to take time to examine several viewpoints and also some data.
Let Us Now Praise Teachers
Teachers are underappreciated, underpaid, and under a lot of undeserved pressure. Yet they hold the future of our communities and our nation in their hands. Beyond curriculum, technology, or community partnerships, teachers are the single most important factor in a student’s learning. They are the spark that ignites a student’s learning, through communicating their passion for their subjects and touching not just students’ minds, but their hearts, as well.
Back in 1992, George Lucas stood on the world’s stage at the Oscars and received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for lifetime achievement. It sits in a glass case near our offices. When I point out the award to visiting educators, they still recall that moment, more than 18 years ago, when George thanked his teachers (which, they often note, today’s Oscar winners rarely do). Lucas said, “All of us who make motion pictures are teachers, teachers with very loud voices. But we will never match the power of the teacher who is able to whisper in a student’s ear.”
Everyone has a story about that one favorite teacher who took an interest in them, told them they were smart, or encouraged them to pursue a subject or a sport. I’ve always been impressed by how even a single remark from one teacher can influence a student’s path. Delaine Eastin, one of most distinguished former California state superintendents, used to tell the story of being a shy girl until a drama teacher told her she ought to try out for a play. Eastin learned that she loved performing onstage. She became a riveting speaker, a popular state legislator, and the highest elected education official in the nation–all sparked by one comment from a compassionate teacher.
I had a similar experience. Having warmed both the A and B team benches during an inglorious freshman basketball season, I was casting about for a student activity during the winter of my sophomore year at John Hersey High School, near Chicago. My English teacher, Richard Panagos, was the speech coach and encouraged me to try out. I ended up winning two state championships in after-dinner and extemporaneous speaking and I still enjoy what most people cite as their greatest fear, even beyond snakes: public speaking.
Every week should be Teacher Appreciation Week. So let’s make sure that, starting this week, we do more to thank the teachers we had and the teachers our daughters and sons have. Let’s resolve to compliment teachers more, through a pat on the back, a handshake, or a card, and express our appreciation for the important national service they’re providing. It’s a gift that will keep on giving as they pass on that warmth to their students. And it won’t require a federal appropriation or a board of education vote.
In a future column, I’ll say more about the power of praise and how a kind word from teachers and parents can go a long way to fuel students’ self-confidence and persistence. Gratitude and praise should be among our nation’s abundant renewable resources for fueling the success of our teachers and students.
Edutopia’s former executive director Milton Chen on why every week should be Teacher Appreciation Week.
Source URL: http://www.edutopia.org/node/23239
This article originally published on 5/3/2010 during Teacher Appreciation Week
It is Not OK to Blame Teachers
A recent action alert from the United Church of Christ reported that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is predicting that up to 300,000 jobs in public schools may be lost due to the recession. In cities like Chicago and Cleveland school officials are predicting class sizes of 35 to 45 for next fall. Meanwhile, as high school seniors plan for their graduation ceremonies, a new round of “blame the victim” seems to be in vogue. In this case it is the vulnerable teaching profession that seems to be under siege.
Earlier this year Arne Duncan and Barack Obama publicly affirmed the decision of a Rhode Island school district to fire every teacher at a failing public high school. Do we really think every teacher at that high school deserved to be fired? Subsequent negotiations between the district and the school board have led to the rehiring of many of those teachers, but under enforced new work rules. This spring the governor of New Jersey, angry at the pace of negotiations with teachers’ unions, publicly urged citizens to vote down their school levies knowing full well what kind of devastating impact that would have on public school classrooms in his state.
This Sunday The Cleveland Plain Dealer published a front page report on teachers in the Cleveland Public Schools that, at least to me, seemed designed to paint teachers in the worst possible light as overpaid, underworked, intransigent about reform, and not overly competent.
What’s going on here?
No one can deny that there is a desperate financial crisis hitting our schools this year. The inadequacy of a school funding system that relies heavily on property taxes privileges suburban school districts at the expense of rural and urban districts. Year by year its flaws grow more apparent, yet year by year we steadfastly refuse to reform it. State budgets are in freefall in an environment where few are willing to consider any rise in income taxes to maintain even the most essential public services. No can deny that there are some mediocre teachers protected by employment rules that need reform. But there are also plenty of mediocre doctors, lawyers, and clergy around; no one hears them pilloried as a class in quite the same way teachers are being viewed today.
The fascination with testing, ushered in by the “No Child Left Behind” law, has made it easy to point fingers at failing schools and their teachers, as if the only solution to our education crisis was to throw the bums out and start over again. But how would you like to have to prepare third graders in a class of thirty-five or more for math and science tests, when many of those students move in and out of your classroom due to the instability of their homes and when support from parents can never be assumed?
What’s going on here?
Certainly union busting is part of what’s going on. Public officials see a rare opportunity to diminish the power of teachers’ unions in this climate and are doing what they can to discredit organizations that have done much to ensure that teachers are rewarded and protected at a level commensurate with other professions. People are angry and frustrated with a broken public school system that vouchers, charter schools, and testing haven’t repaired. Having run out of the easier fixes, the public is looking for the next easy and painless fix – blame the teachers.
The balkanization of our public school system and the economic segregation of our communities ensures that districts with the biggest challenges have the fewest resources. And let’s be honest, for most people passionate interest in public schools begins when the first child enters kindergarten and ends when the last child graduates from high school.
How many of us know much of anything about what’s going on in our public schools when we don’t have our own children or grandchildren attending them?
When you travel across the country through numerous county seat towns and cities, it’s easy to see what was important to those who established those communities. They built – at great personal sacrifice – churches, schools, libraries, and court houses, public institutions that provided for the general welfare of their communities rather than simply the private mercantile interests if its citizens. Usually these buildings were architecturally grand, dominating the landscape, announcing to all that the spiritual, intellectual, and moral enrichment of the public was a central priority.
What do we build today? Sports arenas. In the New York area alone the last five years have seen the building of two new baseball stadiums, a football stadium, and a basketball arena, all built around lavish accommodations for those privileged few who can buy luxury boxes.
The city I’ve lived in for the last 18 years has as its community slogan, “A city is known by the schools it keeps.” If that’s true, then our nation increasingly should be embarrassed. Many of our public schools are a mess, and until we all take a good look at ourselves in the mirror, blaming the teachers will not only be unfair, it will only make matters worse. How many of our best and brightest young people, watching the jobs in education dry up and the public perception of the profession under assault, will be eager to devote their lives to the public schools?
Here in Chicago there are many trying to ring the warning bells about the plight of our schools and our teachers. Sadly, for many those warning bells, like school bells, don’t seem to be very compelling or urgent. Here there seems to be more attentiveness to the horns at the United Center signaling another goal in the Black Hawks’ run for a Stanley Cup. When Jesus took a child in his lap, he demonstrated a central vocation of the church. Today that vocation means many things, but at the center ought to be our shared commitment to public schools and to those who teach in them.
John H. Thomas
If this post is too religious for you , try this one by Diane Ravitz.
Wherever I go, I meet many teachers who say virtually the same thing: They have never been more demoralized in their professional lives. They feel that they are scapegoats for everything that is wrong in American education. Arne Duncan and Barack Obama, even more than Margaret Spellings and George W. Bush, are giving credibility to the idea that 100 percent of students should be proficient, that teachers are to blame when test scores are not 100 percent proficient, that teachers use students’ poverty as just an excuse for their bad teaching, and that firing teachers is laudable and courageous. Teachers say that they worked hard to elect Obama, and they now feel betrayed by his negative attitudes about teachers. They say, “If only Obama or Duncan would spend a few days in my classroom…”
So, the big idea today is that the way to fix American education is to identify bad teachers and fire them. I agree that we should get rid of bad teachers (but only after a fair hearing, in which charges against them are substantiated). But I also believe that this issue is a red herring that distracts us from far more important issues.
Right now, I would say that Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top are more injurious to American education than bad teachers. There is a way to solve the problem of bad teachers. They can be denied tenure or fired, but no one knows how to stop the damage done by NCLB and the predictable damage that will be done by RTTT.
Right now, many states are hoping to qualify for RTTT billions by introducing laws to evaluate teachers by student test scores. Teachers know this is unfair because student performance depends on many factors beyond the teachers’ control (like regular attendance and student motivation), as well as the fact that students are not randomly assigned to classes and teachers. However much NCLB promotes teaching to the test, think how much worse it will be when teachers’ salaries are tied to test scores.
I received an email from Dr. Harry Frank, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who has written textbooks about testing and measurement. Dr. Frank wrote that the first principle for valid assessment is that “no assessment can be used at the same time for both counseling and for administrative decisions (retention, increment, tenure, promotion). … All this does is promote cheating and teaching to the exam. … This principle is so basic that it’s often covered in the very first chapter of introductory texts on workplace performance evaluation.” [The full text of Dr. Frank’s email is posted on my Web site, www.dianeravitch.com, in a section called “comments.”] I asked Dr. Frank to explain the word “counseling,” and he said that this meant “feedback on performance for purposes of skills development,” what we might think of as the diagnostic use of an assessment. Dr. Frank also added: “Assessments should be a counseling resource, not a source of extrinsic motivation, i.e., rewards and punishments for teachers, administrators, and school districts.”
Put simply, tests and assessments should inform teachers about student progress and their own teaching, i.e., what can be learned from the test results. But it is inappropriate to use the same test results to hand out bonuses and punishments, promotions and tenure.
Thus, if any of our public officials is talking to testing experts, they are likely to discover that their plans to evaluate teachers by student test scores are technically invalid and will produce perverse (but predictable) effects that actually damage learning and are likely to undermine the teaching profession.
After reading all of this you may be data hungry. Try NCTAF. Who Will Teach
Read the full report:
Who Will Teach? Experience Matters
Between 2004 and 2008, 300,000 veteran teachers left the workforce for retirement. Baby Boom teachers who made lifelong commitments to education are retiring, and in many cases are taking their hard-earned wisdom with them.
See the Shifts in the Age of the National Teaching Workforce.
Why can’t we just recruit our way out of this challenge? Because the rate at which new teachers leave has been increasing steadily over the last 15 years.
Together, these trends have resulted in a precipitous drop in experience in the classroom. In 1987-88 the typical teacher had 15 years of experience, but by 2007-08 the typical teacher had just 1 to 2 years of experience.
See the Dramatic Shifts in K-12 Teaching Experience.
Every state will be impacted by these shifts. Schools that have depended on a core of veteran teachers are already seeing those teachers retire, and in some cases are creating new work arrangements for teacher at or nearing retirement.
What does the situation look like in your state?
Your thoughts? And to whom did you write them!!
Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Digital Equity Chair ISTE
Digital Equity and Social Justice Chair , SITE