Good Teachers vs. Teachers That Suck
Last night, I had the pleasure of having a conversation with a parent of a traditional public school student. They did not call me as a fellow parent, but as an experienced educator. It seemed that his son’s teachers didn’t fully understand what he meant when he said he wanted to be kept abreast of his son’s progress. He lives in an area where parents of color are few and far between, and teachers of color are even fewer and farther between. He wondered if perhaps the teacher’s lack of exposure to other ethnicities may have been the problem, after all, this was the second year in a row a teacher had waited until the last month of school to bring up possible academic issues. However, as a conspiracy theorist, I was somewhat surprised at my response. I didn’t think, and I still do not think, that a teacher’s lack of professionalism or service has ANYTHING to do with one’s dearth of exposure to other types of people. I think that everywhere you go, you find two types of teachers. There are the amazing ones that make you want to bring them apples and and jewelry. And then there are the other ones that make you consider committing a felony. Or maybe that’s just me……
Anyway, this got me to thinking about Fareed Zakaria’s GPS edition from June 3, 2012 which seemed like a further exploration of his January 7, 2012 edition: http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2012/06/04/exp-michael-porter-on-staying-competitive.cnn#/video/bestoftv/2012/06/04/exp-michael-porter-on-staying-competitive.cnn. He speaks with management and competition expert Michael Porter on the myriad reasons why America is no longer as competitive as she used to be. While the conversation was linked to the economic roller coaster, I was struck by the statement that the population of professions that are retiring have a better skill and knowledge set than those who are entering the work-force. So, with advanced technology, students and teachers using SMART Boards, iPads, Legos for engineering, and various other academic competitions where we hail the brilliance of our population, we’re still not cutting it- both domestically and abroad. Workers, who were once students, are not competitive. But doesn’t that mean that teachers and schools aren’t competitive either? Now, what could that possibly have to do with my conversation with the concerned parent from last night?
Many of the great teachers of today are still great and were trained in the art of actually teaching. They weren’t put into the teacher microwave that produces a school-leader in 6 to 8 weeks. While there was rote memorization of many topics, students were also forced to do real work, to think on their own, to incorporate what they may have learned from shop and culinary classes into their math and physics lessons. They didn’t watch an experiment on a screen and simulate in a way that approached 3-D technology- they actually performed the experiment. Parents were not allowed a pass in classroom and school participation, whether the school was segregated or integrated. Additionally, teachers that sucked were fired without a union or a sympathetic principal who cared more for their position than their calling making foolish decisions. Teachers were respected because they did their job. Don’t get me wrong. The days of old had their share of horrible teachers who were about as riveting as watching grass grow or paint dry. On the other hand, you would never find a veteran teacher (10+ years) being “coached” by an individual who was in middle school when the veteran teacher was graduating from college….Anyway, back to the conversation.
I came away from the conversation with the parent wanting teachers to understand a few things:
1. A student’s academic life- even as early as Pre-K is life or death and should be treated as such.
2. A teacher that is not also a parent is seen differently by many parents- especially when the teacher who is not a parent behaves as a superior.
3. Parents don’t care about your credentials as much as you do. They care about your care for their child.
4. Schools are not the end all and be all of learning, but if a child is there for 6+ hours (nearly 10 if a charter school), real learning should occur.
5. Parents don’t want to consistently think of homeschooling their children because of under-performing teachers and schools. If you’re paid for it, get benefits for it, and are off during summers because of it- DO YOUR JOB!
6. A parent will support ANY teacher that knows what she/he is doing. So show what you know .