(Um, Yeah, They Did and It Blows)
I feel duped. Last week, I received a phone call from a legit Newsweek reporter and almost hyperventilated. I mean, what is a Newsweek reporter doing calling little old me? Right? I know I love to toot my own horn, but really, I know I'm pretty small fries. (Small fries in fabulous shoes, which helps, but small fries all the same.) The reporter was super friendly and seemed very interested in my experiences during my first year of teaching. Like every other teacher EVER, my first year of teaching was rough and plagued by behavioral problems. Now, teacher preparation programs and the horror that is the first year of teaching could be a week's worth of blog posts and someday, we will go there, but not today.
Because today, I'm still heated about this Newsweek business.
The article which includes quotes from yours truly is not so terrible on it's own. (Why Teachers Can't Control Their Classrooms) Although, I never EVER said that "very practical things weren't taught" in my preparation program because that is simply not true. I had a fabulous experience in my teacher preparation program, so that is the first point with which I take issue (and cried out, "Are you freaking kidding me?" when I saw it.)
But the cover story?!?! Holy crap, THE COVER STORY! (I mean the title alone is horrifying and against everything I stand for and think - Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers- and have been ranting and raving about for the past two weeks!!! *pulls hair out*) If I had known, had been informed, had been made privy to the angle that they were going to pursue in this issue, I would have said, "HELL TO THE NO!" (Okay, I probably would have said something more polite but equally discouraging as I was raised much better than that.)
I have learned my lesson, friends. And I'm sorry if you thought for one second that I had switched to the other team. I will always be Team Teacher and may, in fact, make up T-shirts in the near future.
Now, let's tear this article to shreds, shall we? (Or I can just grab my bat and we can go all Office Space style on this...your choice.)
So at the start of the piece, they do admit that the quality of a teacher is one of the most important aspects of a child's successful education, which is DUH true. But I RESENT the implication that therefore it is OUR FAULT ALONE that American Public Education has gone down the crapper (in their opinion). I mean, in terms of decision making power, TEACHERS ARE THE RESIDUE LEFT ON THE BOTTOM OF THE SYSTEM'S SHOE AFTER IT IS HAS WALKED THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS OF BULLSHIT OF IT'S OWN MAKING. I'm not saying that's where we belong, but let's face it...that's where we are in the whole scheme of things. When was the last time anyone with any sort of power or control over anything asked a teacher A REGULAR OLD CLASSROOM TEACHER what they thought of any of the latest trends in education and THEN LISTENED AND CONSIDERED THIS INFORMATION?!?!
Now, do I happen to agree with the article that there are weak teachers out there? Yes, actually I do. And I have said that before. We are all plagued by those weak links, forced to pick up the pieces they leave in their trail of uselessness and then are subsequently judged by THEIR performance because we all know that the media loves to highlight the crappy ones. (Well, the crappy ones and the superhero ones dressed exclusively in leather who star in movies.) You know, since teacher bashing seems to have become our national past time along with finger pointing, scape goating and baseball.
And while the article admits that there is a procedure for dismissing less than successful teachers and that many principals are failing to follow through on these procedures (instead passing these teachers like the proverbial buck on to some other school), somehow SOMEHOW failing schools remain all our fault. Um, hello, hole in your argument to go along with your coffee???!
Also, I resent the broad generalization that most inner-city schools resort to a defeatist mindset. I know that that may be true for some schools, but I think a lot of schools have stood up and said, "WE ARE GOING TO DO SOMETHING!" I know I have ka-vetched about some of the realities in my former workplace, but we never EVER just rolled over and took it. We may not have been perfect, but we busted our butts (or most of us did) to avoid the very same attitude that this article thinks we all have in the inner-city. And the beauty of that paragraph is that it is the very same paragraph in which the authors let parents and poverty off the hook. Somewhere, parents and poverty are reading this, breathing a sigh of relief and thinking, "Sweet, we dodged that bullet."
I'm glad that at least parents and poverty are being treated with such respect.
And before a whole bunch of people jump down my throat about parents, I am well aware that many parents are doing a wonderful job. However, those that aren't, REALLY AREN'T and believe me, teachers can tell in an instant in the classroom. But I would never EVER say that "all parents are bad and should be fired" because 1) you can't fire parents and 2) that would be almost as ridiculous as standing up and shouting that all teachers are bad and should be fired a la Central Falls without considering anything such as leadership, context or individual performance.
So then, in an effort to beat public education to a pulp, the article goes on and on about the wonder that is the charter school. Again, because I am not a raging idiot, I will not condemn all charter schools, because I know some of them are kicking butt and taking names (and are staffed with wonderful teachers). However, I will say that making the assertion that in general charter schools are outperforming public schools is RIDICULOUS. I mean, how much evidence to the contrary do you need to see what is right in front of your face?!?
And when WHEN WHEN are we going to stop pushing a business model of education? When are we going to realize that education is smart enough and important enough to deserve it's own language and model? Wake me up when that happens, because lately, I'm considering going to bed and pulling the covers up over my head until that day.)
Oh Lordy, now they are talking about fast track certification programs. And I know that some fabulous teachers come out of these programs, but I also think that those who aren't so fabulous are contributing to the high teacher turnover rates in inner-city schools. And do we really want to embrace the idea that six weeks of classes can get an individual ready for the complexity that is the classroom? I know they're all "but there's mentoring and additional course work and blah blah blah" but STILL. Six weeks does not a successful teacher make.
The article says, "It will take a quiet revolution to improve American schools." Unfortunately, they don't recognize that this revolution starts with listening to, respecting and acknowledging teachers.