By Homer Scarborough
Editor of Georgia News Online
Our attention was drawn to the column of Christopher De Vinck titled Stop Blaming the Teachers today while reading the paper. Being married to a 30 year veteran of the classroom, now retired, gives a bird’s eye view of this problem of wanting the classroom teacher to be responsible to the child socially and educationally from the time they are old enough to enter school until they graduate in 12 or so years (or drop out as so many do today).
There are a lot more complaining parents than there are teachers and so the politicians pick up the chant of the classroom teachers being responsible for EVERYTHING! After all, votes are what it is all about, isn’t it?
Another problem is that so many beginning teachers decide that being in a classroom is not for them and so they go back to school to become a higher paying administrator who will be supervising other teachers that can do the work for which the administrator either can’t or is not willing to make the necessary sacrifices to do.
I have seen in my own household the time that a teacher must put into the job to prepare for the next day at school. I have watched for entire weekends while a project or lesson plans had to be prepared for use in next weeks lessons.
I suspect that the average teacher puts in between 60-80 hours a week doing and preparing the work for which they are paid much much less than they could be making in a comparable job with comparable responsibility. This is also not counting the money a teacher will spend willingly for extra supplies to see that every child, regardless of their parent’s income, has the supplies and tools with which to learn.
Yep, teachers are an easy target and so I suspect we will continue to hear, “Vote for me! I’ll get rid of those bad bad teachers…., and fix our educational system. Further to blame, are the parents who would rather blame the teacher than to look into the mirror and see the person that is equally responsible for giving a child the social skills, character and moral foundation on which to learn….
Additional comments by Alan Wood
For those of you that love to blame the teachers and think the solutions are charter schools or running schools like a business I hope you will consider reading this book. We Don’t Need Another Hero: Struggle, Hope, and Possibility in the Age of High-Stakes Schooling Programs like Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind are two of the biggest reasons teachers now have their hands tied. The only thing we seem concerned about are state test scores and lost in this discussion are the needs of the students. We have created a pupil to prison pipeline.
A snippet from the book review on Amazon: “There is a distinct and growing divide between how children of the rich and elite are educated vs. children of the poor (middle class kids are somewhere in between, but slipping toward the poor end). Barack Obama sends his daughters to Sidwell Friends School, while Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel sends his kids to the University of Chicago Lab Schools. Both schools keep class sizes small. Direct instruction in reading and math make up only a small part of the curriculum and are integrated across disciplines to connect with science and social studies. Both schools further enrich their curricula with arts, music, languages, electives, P.E. and recess, and both have well-stocked libraries and athletic and arts facilities. The type of education that both Obama and Duncan and Bush before him envision for the rest of the country, however, is increasingly impoverished and stripped down to bare-bones basics. Long blocks of reading and math time focus heavily on drilling for skills and rote memory to be measured by regular standardized tests. Minimal time is left over for arts, physical education or other enrichment. Both Obama and Duncan favor expanded use of charter schools, especially “no excuses” type schools like KIPP which use “drill-to-kill” techniques, and extended, highly structured days with little room for individual expression, exploration or creativity.
These “no-excuses” schools are supposed to address the so-called “achievement gap” between whites and minorities by focusing specifically on basic skills and necessary facts. But in fact, in all important ways, educational “reforms” are actually widening the gap because poor and minority kids are increasingly denied opportunities to be connected to and involved with meaningful and relevant learning experiences. Research has repeatedly shown that humans – especially children – simply cannot learn large bodies of facts or skills in isolation from experience. Yet educational policy leaders continue to focus on the model of children as empty vessels who need to be filled up with “knowledge”. Poor and minority students especially get turned off and demoralized by “educational” experiences which in no way connect to their actual lived experience.”
Teachers continue to take the blame for bad educational policies at the national and state levels often formulated by people who have never been in front of a classroom. Until we as a nation learn to treat our teachers with a modicum of respect and allow them to do their jobs with a lot less interference from mountains of bureaucratic red-tape and focus on teaching and learning, we have no one to blame but ourselves. But for the love of God stop blaming the teachers because it truly isn’t their fault. We tie their hands and force them to teach to tests and then wonder why kids drop out or fail. I encourage you all to read this book by Gregory Michie if you actually are interested in learning about the true causes so many American public schools are failing.
Many people look back on the 70’s and 80’s as the golden age of education in the U.S. and also in Bibb. Back then we were doing exactly what high performing countries like Finland, Singapore, Japan and others are doing now.
Both President Bush and President Obama sold the soul of education to companies like Pearson with programs like No Child Left Behind and other well-intentioned programs that turned our schools into corporate profit centers for testing companies. Teachers were forced to teach to tests instead of teaching content or to the students.
Companies like Pearson make billions off of forcing both students and teachers to take endless tests. If you want to know why Education in the U.S. is in trouble, I strongly suggest you read this article. 8 Things You Should Know About Corporations Like Pearson that Make Huge Profits from Standardized Tests. Until the U.S. pushes companies like Pearson out of schools again, teachers will continue to fight an uphill battle. They need your support not your blame.