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I have just finished reading a book I have to review entitled Be a Teacher.  One of the editors is Phil Bigler, who has won all three of the big national teaching awards:  Disney, Milken and National Teacher of the Year.  It is a book aimed at those considering teaching or near the start of their teaching careers, and is subtitled with "You Can Make A Difference" and is listed as "by America's Finest teachers."   It contains reflections by Bigler and his coauthor, herself an award winner, and 12 others who have been greatly honored for their own teaching.   It is an interesting book, and when I do write my review I promise to cross-post it or summarize it here.

Today I am going to crib from one appendix, and then offer a few additional remarks of my own.  This won't be long.  I encourage you to keep reading.

Appendix B contains "Twenty-Five Inspirational Quotations about Teachers and Teaching."   I want to offer a few of these, and then offer some comments of my own.

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. - Henry Adams

Teaching is a timeless profession.  It is the basis of all other professions.  Good teachers plant seed that make good doctors, good accountants, good public servants, good statesmen, good taxi drivers, and good astronauts.  When former students return to see me over the years, my heart fills up in the knowledge that I have been part of a wonderful accumulation of experiences that followed them through life. - Mary Bicouvaris

If your plan is for a year, plant rice.  If your plan is for a decade,plant trees.  If our plan is for a lifetime, educate children. - Confucius

I am a teacher because of teachers.  They showed me that someone other than my mother could love me. - Guy Doud

In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something else. - Lee Iacocca

What else is needed is something that teachers themselves are reluctant to talk about openly and it's our respect for them.  It's what is missing in America, and it's what has been too long withheld from a profession so important to our national well being, as important as doctors or captains of industry or TV commentators.  From sunup to sundown, the school teachers you have seen tonight work harder than you do - no matter what you do.  No calling in our society is more demanding than teaching. No calling in our society is more selfless than teaching.  No calling in our society is more central to the vitality of a democracy than teaching. - Roger Mudd

To me the sole hope of human salvation lies in teaching. - George Bernard Shaw

Each of these quotes speaks to me, not merely because I am a teacher, although that is part of it.   Like Guy Doud, I am in part a teacher because of other teachers, and love - directly expressed or not - was certainly part of it.  It was my AP American History teacher Thomas Rock who challenged me to live up to what I could do, and it was Music Professor John Davison who demonstrated the deep love for every student who passed through his care, including me.  I hope that I return both lessons with my own students.

I know the importance of respect.   I cannot demand it from my students but must earn it, in large part by acting with respect towards them.   It might be helpful were the media and many politicians and far too many parents not reinforcing a different attitude.  In part it is because we do not pay teachers, and if they make so little, they cannot be that important, right?   Except, as I might note, in one 45 minute period I spend more quality time with some of my students than they get from their parents, which is a different tragedy.  Our society needs to reexamine how we value people, and not have such an emphasis on money and overt power.  

The Henry Adams quote is one I have long cherished.  The affects of my own teachers continue on me today.   And I have now taught long enough to be no longer be surprised at some of the students who come back to thank me.  It worries me that some of my longterm affects upon students might not be so salutary, which is one reason I try to be aware of how my words and actions can have impact far beyond their immediate purpose.  I am only in my 13th year of teaching, but am already experiencing some of what Mary Bicouvaris writes about.

IF you are a parent, you have every right to demand that your children's teachers see them as individuals, but please remember yours may be one of almost 200 children that teacher deals with every day.  If you want more personal attention for your child, demand smaller classrooms, lower student loads per teacher so that they are capable of giving that attention.  

If you are a policy maker, remember that the decisions you make can support or prevent the kind of teaching environment that makes a difference in the life of a child.  Teaching is about much more than cramming information into heads so that it can be given back on high stakes tests which really do not tell us all that much useful information.

All of us have had teachers.   And even if we were too shy, or too stubborn, to express our thanks at the time, we can always drop a note or make a call, or if possible stop by and say hello, and thank those who made a difference for us.  Sometimes we worry about the students who pass through our care, that we did not do enough, care enough, and it can help a teacher who is wondering whether to continue the struggle to hear of the differences s/he made.  Sometimes that can be the one thing that keeps a teacher going for one more year.

I know I can make a difference.  And I am not making these requests on my own behalf.   But while I claim to speak for no one except myself, I also acknowledge that I have a voice - and a keyboard - that seems to be able to express in ways others may not be able to, to reach eyes and ears and minds to which many do not have access.

So this is my offering today.   It is about the importance of teachers.  You probably already know about that importance, but I figured a gentle reminder might not hurt.

Peace.

Originally posted to teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 04:42 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I hope this is of value to someone (48+ / 0-)

    perhaps one or two of year will be encouraged to thank a teacher, perhaps online here, or by contacting them.

    Or if you yourself are a teacher, you will be able to feel not quite so isolated, and will see things that can help remind you why you work so hard.

    Whatever your response, I wrote this because I thought it was something worthwhile I could do with my one diary, with my time, with whatever power of communication I might have.

    Do with it what you will.   And thanks for reading, and whatever else you choose to do.

    peace.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 04:42:57 AM PST

    •  When I was a teacher I would sometimes (11+ / 0-)

      meet a wise guy who, upon learning of my profession, would say "Those who can, do, those who can't, teach."  And then he would laugh at his own brilliance.  I was at a meeting of birdwatchers one day and a fellow teacher and I met a man who made this tired remark.  My friend, who knew this man's profession said, "Those who can, do, those who can't, teach, and those who can't teach go into real estate."  I laughed and laughed.

      If you don't have an earth-shaking idea, get one, you'll love building a better world.

      by hestal on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:11:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Teachers need good press. Contact the MSM (5+ / 0-)

      10's of thousands of teachers show up everyday for their students, do their job, advocate for for the weakest in our society, cope with more and more responsibilities put on their plate with out a single responsibility taken off.  Our society rarely portrays this in the mass media.  Yet when one teacher commits a crime it becomes a national headline.

      Teachers need good press!!!

      If you have a good, positive story about a teacher contact the MSM today, Please!

      Remember to place these contacts into your Bcc box on your email so each recipient will get their very own special email.  It also helps bypass spam filters.

      Media Contacts

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      Never give up on peace!!! What are you left with if you do???

      by Gator on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 07:04:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  as always, if you write a comment I will read it (13+ / 0-)

    and will respond as appropriate.  Tat may include commenting back, or offering mojo.  I do not do driveby diarying.  As a shy person, I really appreciate the dialog possible here.

    Peace.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 04:50:29 AM PST

  •  The collection of quotes is wonderful. (10+ / 0-)

    Two of them standout for me. first, teachers work harder than almost anyone else I know. This is why we need smaller classes. My youngest son has a wonderful English teacher for Honors English 10. His brothers had her for AP English in the 11th grade. I was stunned to learn at back-to-school night that there are 26 kids in my son's English class. That is far too many for a conscientious writing teacher.

    The second issue is the issue of respect. In this country, we simply do not respect the work that teachers do. We don't pay them enough, and we make the best of them administrators, rather than leaving them in the classroom as master teachers. My oldest sons had a wonderful teacher for honors phsics. She is one of the best science teachers in the state of NJ. My yunger son will not have her for physics next year because she is now a full-time administrator.

    •  it depends on the nature of administration (9+ / 0-)

      I am considering a program where I would become a principal in a year because it would allow me to focus on being an instructional leader, helping others become more effective teachers.  If the job of administrator has that as its primary responsibility, it can make sense.

      My wife and I were talking about this last night. Ed Ayers was a superb scholar and teacher at U Va -  he created the wonderful online resource on civil war history called In the Valley of the Shadow.   He had moved up to administration, and has now become the president of the U of Richmond.   I am guessing that Ayers wants to leverage what he has learned by working through other people.

      I have managed, including having a manager and supervisors under me.   I know that it is a different way of affecting lives to work through others rather than directly with the target, in schools meaning directly with the students.   But someone needs to do it, and we would want administrators who see their role as empowering and improving teaching, and not as an ability to control the lives of others.

      it can be a tough call.  It should not be made merely because of the salary increase, I will agree on that.  But sometimes it is how we can best improve the education of more students.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 04:57:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree that good administrators can make (6+ / 0-)

        a world of difference. Until about four years ago, we had two wonderful principals in our district who were real educational leaders. We lost them to another district where they are now Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. The problem that I see, and this may or may not be typical, is that our administrators' salaries seem to be rising much faster than our teachers' dalaries. Last year, we worked to elect two new members to our local board of ed, but two voices out of nine are not enought to really change direction.

      •  Administrators make a difference. (7+ / 0-)

        The past two at our high school have been wonderful.  The first was a great discplinarian in the most calm and unemotional way.  His greatest gift was providing the discipline for some of our students from troubled homes.  He followed the rules, but he was able to create a relationship that allowed many of these students to graduate and then live great lives.  He changed the lives of these students and their families.

        Our news principal has a lot of experience, and he also is a good discplinarian.  His gift is educational and curriculum leadership.  He has convinced our staff that we have a "moral duty to educate our students."  It sounds a bit corny, but it works.

        For the past 21 years, I have been allowed to teach with few discipline problems.  If a parent complains, I receive absolute public support.  I hear horror stories of other schools, but it is nice to have this support.

        •  I don't remember who the principal (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mary Mike

          of my junior high or high school.  but I ran into Mr. Rice, the one of my elementary school, when I was in college, at the grocery store.  I recognized him, but to my absolute shock, he recognized me.  I had known from my mom how impressed she was at how invested in the students he had been, but I hadn't seen evidence like that.  It was really impressive.

      •  My response to administrative duties? (4+ / 0-)

        Run away.  Run away.

    •  Master teachers should get paid well. (5+ / 0-)

      National Board was a start, but that money is drying up.  It is sad that great teachers who are ambitious become administrators.

      My grandfather had a long career educating.  He started teaching in a one room school house on the open range in Montanta and eneded it as junior college teacher in history.  In between he taught high school, college, and was the school and county superintendent.  

      He always wanted to teach.

      •  I am National Board Certified (10+ / 0-)

        between the state and my district I receive an additional $7,000 a year.

        I do think there is an argument for paying more for more difficult situations in which to teach, which can be defined a lot of ways.  Sometimes people only look at schools with high poverty as a challenge.  Let me tell you that teaching very gifted children can be very  much of a challenge!   I may be bright, but I have kids who are absolutely brilliant, and I seem to get one or two per year who are prodigiously so.  They are just as entitled to superior teaching, and need to be challenged just as much as the student who is struggling with the basic, and/or who comes from a less privileged background.

        Our approach to compensation of teachers should not be a zero sum game.  Compensation is one issue, respect is another, support is another, reasonable work loads yet another, but increasingly the issue for many teachers is having the flexibility to adjust one's teaching to the needs of the students, and not being locked into pacing guides and external tests that are increasingly making it impossible to meet the needs of individual students.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

        by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:36:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Flexibility! That is such a great idea. (9+ / 0-)

          Freedom to teach is what I enjoy most, and that is why I have never left this small district.

          Congratulations on the National Board Certification.  We have two teachers on staff who have achieved the status.  I know the work and commitment thta it takes besides just the talent.  Repsects!

          •  we had four in our building in one year (4+ / 0-)

            unfortunately, some of those who have received the certification have moved on.

            I am trained to mentor others through the process, but of the people to whom I have been assigned officially, none in the past two years has really taken advantage of how I could help them.

            There is an art teacher in our building whom I have helped who might make it this year.  

            One reason I like the process is that it requires one to be reflective, to examine what one is doing specifically in terms of how it helps the students.  

            Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

            by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:42:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  The Most Important Profession (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril

          The two most important professions in the continuing progress of human civilization are teaching and the other is research and development.

          We and our children have all had excellent teachers and also  had unfortunately not so good teachers. It has always been my strong belief that one problem in the teaching profession is that we have never placed enough value on it. I've seen good teachers fulfill the needs of the very bright students and stimulate the minds of the otherwise complacent students.

          I may be alone in this belief but I feel teachers should be paid far more than they are. But to achieve that would require changing the dynamics of the union and tenure. I once ran for school board and found that the first part of what I sought was embraced but the second part ensured I would not be elected to the Board.

          While there are other issues regarding education, I am not sure how to resolve this one. In the private sector people who achieve are rewarded, but those that do not are dismissed.

          •  Properly rewarded (0+ / 0-)

            While there are other issues regarding education, I am not sure how to resolve this one. In the private sector people who achieve are rewarded, but those that do not are dismissed.

            In the private sector, it's easier to measure success and isolate means for achieving it. And even then, given the results of the private sector's leadership in our country these last few years, one wonders what value such measurements and such success have in the big picture.

            Certainly, private schools do no better at educating children than public ones, with the "exception" of those elite schools who make sure that only the high achievers attend their schools in the first place.

            People love to measure things, but frequently, in teaching, the things you can measure often have little relevance to the outcomes. I saw a great cartoon the other day of teachers measuring how fast the kindergartners can get down the slide.

            I've seen good teachers fulfill the needs of the very bright students and stimulate the minds of the otherwise complacent students.

            This is very true. It's the measurement of such qualities that I question -- that any "objective" measurement would be any improvement on seniority (which exists) and tenure (which does not exist in K12 that I'm aware of, at least in California)

            There is a case to be made for higher certifications in teaching, since a year or two of a teaching program at some university can't possibly give you more than enough training to barely hang on your first year.

            Even in the private sector, though, a lot of dead wood is tolerated. After all, "Dilbert" did not become successful because it failed to satirize real situations in the private sector.

            None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

            by Toddlerbob on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:49:37 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  tenure exists in many states (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              annetteboardman

              albeit not as strongly established as it is in post-secondary education.   Some states do not have it -  in Virginia there is a continuing contract status that has some aspects of tenure, but not all.  In Maryland, after two years of successful teaching one has tenure.  Basically all that means is that to dismiss you an administrator must be able to show cause, that you have due process rights.  Up to that point you are probationary, you can be dismissed without a reason being given.

              Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

              by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:53:05 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  tenure? (0+ / 0-)

                Yes, it's not that different in California, but it's also not that different from what any government worker would get. So in that sense, mail carriers and the secretary at the court house also have tenure.

                None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

                by Toddlerbob on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 04:22:19 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Gifted Kids (4+ / 0-)

          Let me tell you that teaching very gifted children can be very  much of a challenge!

          I taught a special day class for gifted kids for 22 years. It is so true that they need special treatment and challenges. I finally gave up and went to third grade this year. Fighting the constant pressure from the district, who, having created the classes, almost immediately withdrew support for them, has worn me down. I felt like the little dutch boy without even the dike. I did last a dozen years longer than they wanted me to, mainly because of parental support, which gives me some satisfaction.  Still, 34 sixth graders year after year, many of whom are smarter than I am, also wore me down.

          Sometimes I think if we stopped labeling them "gifted" it would help. Maybe if we called them "obsessive learners" or something else slightly negative, administrators would feel better about making special classes and special programs for them.

          Because the truth is that if these kids are not properly challenged and supported, they can fall a very very long way, and take others down with them.

          None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

          by Toddlerbob on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:32:12 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  26 too many? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annetteboardman

      Perhaps my expectations are skewed from going to an overcrowded school, but some of my best classes had 40 or more students. Or perhaps I just had some really amazing teachers. Actually, there's no "perhaps" about that."

      During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

      by kyril on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:37:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  depends on age, class, students, teacher, space (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annetteboardman, kyril

        I had 36 in an 18 X 30 temporary building, and they were physically on top of one another.

        I can handle a class of that many, but I am dealing with secondary students.  Of course, then I cannot do as much work on their writing, not directly, and have to try to use peer editing to help get them feedback, and yet until my students have themselves learned about peer editing / reviewing, it is not a productive exercise.

        I can easily handle 40 students at a time if my method of instruction is to be primarily lecture.   But imagine a 45 minute period, and trying to get each kid to speak at least once -   now you begin to see the problem.

        Can it be done? Yep.  Is it the best way?  Nope.

        Allow me to point you to a piece I wrote on precisely this subject many moons ago.  It is entitled Among school children: Class size does matter.

        Peace.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

        by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:42:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  In the Talmud (12+ / 0-)

    it says (I don't have the cite, but it's something like this)

    "God dwells wherever children are learning"

    A nice hopeful diary.  And while we all need rage, we all need hope, too.

  •  Thanks Ken (9+ / 0-)

    You hit the nail on the head.

    One tiny piece of advice for teachers out there trying to stay in touch with former students: Facebook. Your former students are there, and it is difficult to use email addresses, phone numbers, and addresses for teenagers and 20somethings over time because they move around a lot.

    (I'm not spamming. Ken can vouch for the fact that I often respond to his diaries with noncommercial comments, and I am not affiliated with Facebook.)

    The Iraq War: End It, Don't Mend It

    by Reino on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 04:54:09 AM PST

  •  I had a principal once (11+ / 0-)

    who described teachers as "the foot soldiers of democracy."  

    If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything. --Mark Twain

    by Desert Rose on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 04:55:34 AM PST

  •  Pay and respect (14+ / 0-)

    While I certainly agree that teachers deserve better salaries, it is really more than that involved in respect.

    When my parents went to school (and they are in their 80s now) teachers were RESPECTED.  All caps on purpose.  They earned little.  But my grandparents made sure they respected teachers, and society largely backed this up.  

    We've lost a lot of that, for a variety of reasons, and we need it back.

    •  Thank you (9+ / 0-)

      to you and teacherken.  I have been a teacher all of my career, 24 years now.  I have taught everything from swimming to Hebrew to hermeneutics, to first graders through graduate students.  I have usually felt the repsect of which you speak. More money would have been nice, but I would have done it for less, too.  

      Even from many who have a basic sense of respect for teachers and education in genreal, I still hear the subtle criticism that teachers don't work very much.  They work 8:00-3:00 for nine months a year.  What is missing is the recognition of teaching as a creative art.  I am unable to sit still for more than a few minutes without my mind drifting to the next time I will be teaching and how I am going to do it.  I never watch a movie or read a novel or listen to a song without thinking about how they relate to my discipline and how I might use them in my teaching.  This is difficult to communicate to people.

      So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

      by illinifan17 on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:43:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What's also missing... (6+ / 0-)

        Even from many who have a basic sense of respect for teachers and education in genreal, I still hear the subtle criticism that teachers don't work very much.  They work 8:00-3:00 for nine months a year.

        is the understanding that teachers' days don't end at 3pm.  There isn't any in-school planning time, any longer.  Teachers get to go home and do several more hours of "unpaid" work.  We won't mention the the non-academic duties teachers are expected to do like bus monitor, club sponsors, and the like.

        Sometimes, the prevailing belief that teachers don't work as long or as hard as everyone else really bothers me.  It's so patently false, if people would just take the time to find out.

        The apocalypse will require substantial revision of all zoning ordinances. - Zashvill -6.25 -5.69

        by Heiuan on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:00:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  not quite correct (4+ / 0-)

          most teachers have some in-school planning time, but it is never enough to do all the planning, and at the secondary level it is not close to enough time to correct all the papers.

          Officially my day is 8-3:30, with classes running from 8:25-3:05 through 8 periods, of which we teach 6, have one for planning and one for lunch.  For half of the year we have 10 minutes of hall duty during our lunch.   We can be assigned other duties during our planning, although finally if we are asked to cover a class for another teacher during our planning we get paid extra for it.

          Not including the extra curricular activities with which I have been involved (and I get paid less than 1,500 for soccer, even though it averages 3 hours / day 5 days a week for better than two months - do the math), and not including my travel time, my school week runs about 60-70 hours a week.  It is not at all unusual for me to be correcting papers for much of an evening, as I tend to turn them around over night.  Yesterday I spent 5 ours reading about 48 essays from my AP government class, and I will have another 17 tomorrow night.   I will also tomorrow night have essay tests from all of my non-AP kids:  assuming that 65 of the 73 take the test (others either being out or having been out on Friday having an additional day to prepare), and assuming that I can read, correct and grade each test in 3 minutes, that is over 3 hours just for that one task, on top of the 7.5 hours to which I am already committed.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

          by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:19:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're correct. (4+ / 0-)

            LOL, that's what I get for hitting "post" before re-reading.  

            I had meant to say that what little in-school "planning" time there is isn't sufficient to get the non-teaching work done, not that there really isn't ANY time.

            ::sigh::  :D

            The apocalypse will require substantial revision of all zoning ordinances. - Zashvill -6.25 -5.69

            by Heiuan on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:48:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Planning time (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            teacherken, kyril

            It used to be that planning period was for, well, planning. Now the name should be changed to meeting period...team meetings, grade level meetings, departmental meetings, etc.

            Thanks for writing teacherken. The quotes are great.

            "Using church pews as precincts, Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat" --- Bill Moyers

            by Spoonfulofsugar on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:50:27 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Good teachers should get the big salaries not (5+ / 0-)

    the athletes and movie stars- That has been a pet peeve of mine for years and years..

    "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones"

    by roseeriter on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 04:56:25 AM PST

    •  Yes and no (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      illinifan17, ER Doc, kyril

      IMO, teachers should be paid what they earn--which is considerably more than they get now--but I should hope that they don't get rock star pay, lest the profession start to attract the wrong people for the wrong reasons. As it stands now, I take comfort in knowing that the people who educate our children are doing so for reasons of idealism and comittment, not greed.

      Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

      by drewfromct on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:08:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well of course, but the emphasis is so out of (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        drewfromct, ER Doc, kyril

        whack- the unimportant is valued so much more than what should be valued. That was my point.

        "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones"

        by roseeriter on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:11:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your point (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          roseeriter, ER Doc, slksfca, kyril

          is a valid one and applies not only to teachers. I can think of far more professions who contribute more to society than athletes and entertainers. And don't even get me started on the pay disparity between, say, nurses and hedge fund managers.

          Our whole society is seriously out of whack, and it's no comfort to know that it always has been.

          Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

          by drewfromct on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:25:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  the flipside of this is (7+ / 0-)

        that because pay is so freakin' low teaching attracts a huge number of people who are incapable and get into teaching because they can't get into another profession.  I am sick and tired of the the many colleagues I have that are completely  incompetent, poorly educated, and flat out ignorant.  If teaching paid more, many of these individuals would not be able to break into the profession.  Idealism and committment are shockingly absent in many school communitities.  My intention now is while I love teaching, I need to leave to earn enough money to pay off student loans, buy a house, and become financially secure.  How many other teachers on Kos are financially insecure?  Gen X and Gen Y teachers are not seeing the same increase in pay that the Baby Boomer generation did in the early to mid 1970's.  Most of my young teacher colleagues are barely making it and dread a financial emergency that would throw of their budgets.  My idealism and commitment are dissolving rapidly in the midst huge classes (140 students total), stadardized testing and curriculum, and bullshit data driven teaching methodology that gets in the way of real teaching and learning.  I love my students, but even they think teachers are crazy for sticking around the mess that is public schools.  We openly joke together about how schools are failing to educate kids.  If we all don't laugh we'll cry.

        I take political action every day. I teach.

        by jbfunk on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:41:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  get involved beyond the classroom (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SherriG, ER Doc, joycemocha, kyril

          and perhaps you can begin to make a difference.  Even if you leave the classroom to earn money, remain supportive of public education and become an advocate for what it right.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

          by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:44:04 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  The "psychic wage" (9+ / 0-)

          You often hear that one of the rewards of teaching is that it's a caring profession that has the benefit of helping others and that one doesn't go into teaching to get rich.

          Be that as it may, the "psychic wage" is far too often used as a justification for not paying teachers well.  This idea is also applied selectively: always to nurses, teachers, etc., but rarely to anyone else.  Which demonstrates what the real agenda is.

          Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

          by Linnaeus on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 07:01:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I am financially secure (5+ / 0-)

          because teaching is my second career.  I would not be financially secure if I had not first worked in industry for 15 years.

          My young colleagues cannot afford to live in my community on the salary they are paid.  A growing subset of the working people in my community commute from far, far away.  This is horrible for all the obvious reasons (pollution, wasted time, yet more consumption....).

          Teachers and nurses are traditionally women's 'professions' and are accordingly historically underpaid.  We see yet another example of the 'there's just no money' hoax being perpetuated.

          The classified (i.e. non-teaching employees) staff at my community college and the administrators think very little of faculty.  They are convinced we are on a gravy train of perpetual holidays and light workload.  Hard to dispel - as a previous commenter stated, teachers are thinking about teaching all the time - its a more than full-time profession.

          Cheers to all the teachers out there!

  •  Making a difference seems (10+ / 0-)

    so cliche.  I planned to get my education degree because I could graduate in 4 years.  Though I came from three generation of educators, I did not plan to teach but go to law school. The first day I student taught I felt the calling.

    Many days, especially Sunday morngings after a long tournament weekend, I wonder why I do it.  Then I remember the kids that have come through my classroom.  When they say thanks, it means a lot.  After 26 years, I still think of law school and doing something, anything else.  

    I don't know if I need any more respect.  I think that is easy enough to earn now that I am old.  What I need, want, demand, and even beg for is passion for education.  Too many of our parents have come to accept the high school and college years as times of social improvement and experimentation that academic demands should not interrupt. Students and parents must get passionate about learning and start thinking of it as a worthwile passion.

    It amazes me that we can demand two or three hours of practice out of our athletes every night.  Yet, any type of academic demands at that level would be greeted with incredulous stares.  We need to restore the idea of hard work.

    •  perhaps, but that is insufficient (6+ / 0-)

      I think social development is a part of learning.  Let me explain.   I have students who come to me wo are brilliant, and as a result are sometimes arrogant.   I no more want to skew the system towards those who more easily learn that towards those who are better athletes or later in life make more money.   If we are going to survive as a democracy our students also need to understand he value of other people.  At least in my classroom that is as important as any content -  I insist that they learn to disagree without being disagreeable, that those whose views are in the distinct minority need to be heard.  Ideas can be challenged without having to destroy the person offering them.  

      I coach.  I have done musical theater.  I know sometimes remaining academically eligible for either is the hook that gets a student to do his or her work, and once that starts it becomes possible to turn the student on to the content, at least somewhat.

      peace.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:14:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Arrogance is a double age sword. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, ER Doc, joycemocha, kyril

        It can be an important ingredient to get students to reach beyond what they really expect to be able to accomplish.

        As a debate coach, I have spent my career teaching people to disagree without being disagreeable.  We need a democracy of those that will do more than listen to 30 econd sound bites.  Listening and investigating issues are passe.

        The idea of looking and debating public policy must come back if we are to figure a way of our system.  We have problems with illegal immigration that need rational solutions.  No one can debate the issue without being a sympathizer or a racist.  We have problems with Iraq, but we end up with no real discussion.  With the drum beat to war going for Iran, we have little public debate.  The Bush doctrine needs to be discussed without the emotion.

        That is the start, but even this site, which I spend too much time on, is full of diatribes absent of real discussion.

  •  Good teachers ought to also recognize the (10+ / 0-)

    parents who make the effort to guide their children to be good students.

    I had a few professors and teachers 'pat me on the back' for my daughter's achievements and I cannot tell you how encouraging that was for me as a parent.

    I always stressed the importance of education to my daughter-so much so she never wanted to leave school and she has 3 degrees to prove that. LOL! It was a relief to her dad and I that she finally got out into the 'real world'. Oy!

    "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones"

    by roseeriter on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:10:27 AM PST

  •  My favorite quote re:Teachers... (6+ / 0-)

    "One hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in my bank account, nor what my clothes looked like. But the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child."

    There are different versions of it and it is attributed to different people including anonymous.
    I wrote in in a note to my grandson's teacher - she was great... and so is his new 1st grade teacher.
    Teachers deserve so much more than they get.

  •  meant to add... (6+ / 0-)

    Thanks for your service, Ken, and for your great contributions here.

    •  u r welcome (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril

      it is nice that there are others now who regularly post on education and teaching so I am able occasionally to write on other topics.

      But I am a teacher, I care passionately about young people, so I will continue to post about teaching and education.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:23:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you Teacherken, (4+ / 0-)

    You have taught us all about the teaching profession and the problems and solutions this profession creates. You have also taught us how to be reasonable. In the fire in the gut, situations you are the one who stands back and thinks it through. Thanks.

    "Though the Mills of the Gods grind slowly,Yet they grind exceeding small."

    by Owllwoman on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:21:51 AM PST

    •  oh, I do shoot from the hip on occasion (4+ / 0-)

      although even then it is usually resting upon something about which I have been reflecting, and the immediate reaction to a stimulus helps pull it together.  Actually, some of my best writing comes about precisely that way.

      One thing for which I would wish for all teachers -  more time to be able to reflect.  Far too often dedicated teachers are so buried that they lack the ability during the school year to step back and really reflect.   That may be one reason why some young teachers burn out far too quickly.  

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:26:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, slksfca, kyril

    I was blessed with four different teachers in my senior year that made a huge difference in my life. I can look back and say that they are a big part of why I went into teaching.

  •  I've been thinking lately (again) about (6+ / 0-)

    ...the paramount importance of good public schools in a healthy democracy. This country is doomed to failure unless we radically change our attitude toward education in general, and particularly the status of teachers in our society. As blue jersey mom says above, "we simply do not respect the work that teachers do. We don't pay them enough..." She's right. Teachers, in whose hands lie the long-term health and wealth of humanity, should be earning at least as much as investment bankers or MBAs.

    Jefferson (and, I believe, Madison, but I don't have the quotes at hand) understood perfectly that an educated populace is vital to representative government. I thank (God, my lucky stars, the Fates, or what have you) that I grew up in a time and place where education was accorded a bit more value than it seems to be getting nowadays. Nearly all of my teachers were, at the very least, competent and caring, and a few of them were truly great. And I appreciate this diary, teacherken, for reminding me how much I honor them. And maybe this is a good place to give a special shout out to my sixth-grade teacher, Kay O'Hara, who was one of the greatest of them all. Thank you.

    There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. -Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    by slksfca on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:29:06 AM PST

  •  I loved your comment about parents meeting (7+ / 0-)

    teachers. As A teacher for 33 years, Parent-teacher conferences were always hard. They were too early in the year(Sept) for you to say anything really meaningful and with so many students, it was hard to place the kid and the parent together.( it is easier to "praise" a student with a parent present) I always appreciated it when the student came with the parents. Being a teacher of "remedial" students with low reading levels, I would try to search for something positive to say to the parents. My students had been the "poor" or "bad" students, the failures for years. They never got the gold stars, the awards, the praise, the benefits the "better" students had. They never got the good report cards, and their parents never came to school to hear about the awful things their child was up to. They were often the "problem" students.
    It was often hard to find something positive...but I made it my goal. I would tell my students" parents that I liked their child and thought he/she was smart and could do much better. Then I would stress the child's creativity and sense of humor and desire to help others...something or anything I had observed that sounded positive. I would explain what kind of class I was teaching and how important it was for the child to succeed and how we needed to work together to achieve this. Then the parents would tell me their tale of woe...and there always was one...heartbreaking...I never enjoyed Parent-Teacher Conferences.  was always so drained and so sad. Our kids has almost insurmountable obstacles...the fact that they do as well as they do, is amazing.
    Then, I would go out of my way during the next week to tell my students how wonderful and really caring their parents( the ones that would show up) were and how I admired them. Then I would remind the students of they work they had to do and why it was so important.
    During the year, I would encourage, praise, hug, pat a sould with words of praise so they would know they are liked and doing well. Yes, I did have occasion to reprimand---but I tried to do that outside the room so others did not see, although they knew what I was doing...sometimes imagination is worse than what one actually says...taking a student into the hallway always calmed me down so that i would say things I would later regret.
    It is such a long, complicated process, I could write a book about it...so.

    Thanks teacherken for your diary, I always enjoy hearing about the trenches but I am glad to be retired.

    All I want from Congress is...IMPEACHMENT!

    by Temmoku on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:52:46 AM PST

    •  and I could "retire" after this year (6+ / 0-)

      that is, I am eligible for a small pension because I will be 62.  It is possible I will take it to do something else, perhaps do a principal's program in DC, or perhaps teach in Virginia where I live.   It is also always possible I could get asked to participate full-time politically, although I think I am more valuable as an unofficial supporter who can be disavowed.  My guess is that I will remain in the classroom.  I feel obligated to let my current school know by the end of February, because by then we will be doing scheduling for next year.  I am tentatively going to be teaching an elective in comparative religion that no one else can teach, and it is a major pain to work out schedules for kids to take it, and it would be unfair to have all that work go to waste.  Also, there is only one other teacher in the building trained for AP government and she probably would not want to do more than one section, and there will be at least two, so someone else would have to get trained were I not to return.

      We'll see.  

      I understand your feelings about being glad to be retired, but I am still trying to make a positive difference.  I have to decide how I best can accomplish that.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:57:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Stay involved! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SherriG, ER Doc, kyril

        My Grandfather taught until 69.

      •  Oh, I am involved... (0+ / 0-)

        I hadn't had much time to read and comment because I have been helping to plan a Conference for teachers of Secondary Students. It has taken all my free time and we were worried that the attendance was not going to be very good. We were really worried. Trying to get teachers out to hear about progress in teaching of reading when school districts won't pay was very hard. These districts don't want to hire Reading Specialists because anyone can teach reading....they don't want to spend much time teaching it...after all anyone can teach Reading and 2 hours a week after school for 6 weeks should get students to "catch up" so they can pass classes and get the District off the watch list or worse. They don't believe in diagnostic testing...just in getting the students to pass the state tests...they don't care what the student doesn't know, just so his scores are good enough to get the school district out of hot water.
        Ah...the days where I was told that "High School Students don't need to be taught Reading. They can read, they just don't want to" are back again!

        All I want from Congress is...IMPEACHMENT!

        by Temmoku on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 07:19:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  more teachers, smaller classes (6+ / 0-)

    I'd like to see a sharply focused campaign on that one issue, with smaller classes (and more teachers) as the one message.  I'd like to see a 10-1 student-teacher ratio (really 8-1) as a goal.  I really believe that would solve a LOT of problems we have currently.  Or at least it is the place to start.  Let's spend money on more teachers and smaller classes, and not on standardized testing and consultants, etc., for 5 to 10 years and see what happens.   The older I get, the more I see this as the "solution" for the problems with the public schools.  My children are grown up now, and I am teaching in a community college.  For the first time, I have a class of 8 students (usually each class has anywhere from 20 to 32 students), and I have to say it is wonderful!  I can only imagine what a class of 8-10 students at the elementary through high school level would be like.  I think all the new gilded age tycoons should kick in the money (it would be a tiny percentage of their incomes) for the public schools in order to fund this:  smaller classes and more teachers.   Everywhere.

    •  some are putting big $$ into education, but (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc, kyril

      the direction they are going is not necessarily positive  Gates is putting hundreds of millions into a small schools initiative that on paper is a good idea.  But he also supported the Aspen Institute study on NCLB, and he is partnered with Eli Broad on a number of initiatives that more than a few thoughtful people in education question.

      Congressional candidate Jared Polis put a lot of his own money into funding a charter school in CO to meet the needs of English Language Learners.

      just a couple of examples.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:59:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  More teachers might not get us better teachers. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril
        •  don't disagree - was one problem with (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ER Doc, jjellin, joycemocha, kyril

          some initiatives for smaller classes.   We did not have the qualified teachers to staff them, and in some cases we did not have the classroom space needed for the additional classes.

          It is rare that one can address one problem area in public education without simultaneously addressing a number of interconnected issues.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

          by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 06:08:50 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Agreed! (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ER Doc, jjellin, kyril

            As part of the initiative in Iowa, we did get numbers down in k-2, and the results were exciting.

            •  can you say more about this? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kyril, Tropical Depression

              How small were these classes?  What were the results?

              •  I am going on memory, and so the figures (4+ / 0-)

                will be off some.

                We passed a bill that set a goal of 18 students for K and less than 20 for 1-2.  Research shows that students in K-2 do great in smaller class sizes.  Research is not as promising for older students.

                This went into effect four years ago, and the results are promising.  Though Iowa has a higher poverty rate for our children than the national average, our education numbers remain high.  Our 4th grade test scores have shown continuous improvement.  The first recipients will start hitting the 8th grade tests next year, so it will be interesting if there is a bump.

                Teachers have really enjoyed the freedom of the smaller class sizes.  Because it is a goal, there is a great deal of flexibility.  Many schools combined their reading initiatives with small class sizes and put many more reading specialists into the classroom.  Teachers are excited because they get support and personal contact with kids.

                It has been so successful so far that, funding has been built into the school forumla for Iowa.  That means it will stay for the time being.

                Since I am no longer in the legislator, I don't have access to all the reports, but the ones I have read are promising.

        •  true, but I'm not talking about (5+ / 0-)

          doing away with accountability and credentialling.  Actually, I'd like to see teachers have more flexibility, that will bring out their uniqueness, which is a good thing in education.  Every teacher is different.  Sometimes the teacher you "hated" turns out to be the one you are most grateful for later in life.  Sometimes, even the truly evil teachers, and I believe I had one once, offer important life lessons--because they were not in isolation, but part of a larger system.  You could see how different the truly messed up one was from the others, and that is helpful.  We can't make the world perfect, but through education, we can help kids learn about the world, and the people in it, not to mention themselves, which I actually think is the MOST important role of education.  That is one reason why I think a teacher who can respond to each child, easier when there are fewer children in a class, can truly help the child learn who they are in the world, in their communities, etc.  A teacher in a class with few children, can really listen and respond to those kids, and bring them to the material to be learned in a way that best suits them--it is a negotiation in a sense between the child and the teacher.  The child is unique and the teacher is unique.  Standardized tests are anathema.  I'm saying that as one who was always very good at taking standardized tests, always scored at the top without really trying, and who actually enjoyed taking them when I was a kid.  But now I see them in the politicial context in which they are mandated and I see them as political tool and an educational short cut--to score (ooh, nasty image there) the students, the teachers and the schools, and to take a burden off the politicians and taxpayers who want to take the easy way out.

      •  I've heard of small schools, but it's not (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, Tropical Depression

        the same as small class size.  I really think small class size is the answer.

        •  actually it is an important issue as well (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tryptamine, jjellin, kyril

          in a large school a kid can be anonymous.  This can lead to slipping through the cracks and/or serious behavior problems.

          I have to do hall duty during the first 10 minutes of my lunch for half the year.  Then, and on other occasions in the building, if a student is doing something inappropriate, not where s.he is supposed to be, dressed inappropriately, whatever - unless I know the student and/or can see the id, I have no way of effectively addressing the issue unless the student is willing to let me.  I have pretty good memory for faces and dress, and most of the worst offenders I can simply describe and one of the security people or administrators will know who it is.  They are actually less of a problem than are some of the marginal kids who are acting out.

          In smaller schools no kid is anonymous.   That affects all kinds of things.   There are however tradeoffs, such as the ability of the school to offer a wide variety of electives.  

          It is a separate issue, but not unrelated to some of what we attempt to address in smaller class sizes.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

          by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 06:28:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, I agree (4+ / 0-)

            smaller schools are a good idea, I just didn't want that confused with smaller class sizes.  I'm afraid that people might be easily quieted down about lower student-teacher ratios, when they are told about small-school initiatives, which are good in many ways, but are not the same thing.  

          •  I don't think the tradeoffs are worth it (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Tropical Depression

            Not at all. You can't put a price on the ability to take literally any AP class in existence (I managed to take 13, and would have dome more if I hadn't run out of space in my schedule). How many schools offer AP Music Theory? How many have five different tiered-difficulty bands plus marching band and jazz band, four choirs, three orchestras, full course offerings up to the AP level in French, Spanish, German, Latin, Italian, Japanese and the beginnings of a Chinese program, four years of engineering classes plus electives like engineering drafting, computer science in three different languages, specialty science courses like environmental science, and an arrangement with a local university to offer Calculus 3 and Differential Equations? You just can't do those things in a small school. The price of individual attention is a loss of individualization.

            Small classes are fine, and excellent at the elementary level, although at the high school level there are trade-offs; students learn a lot from each other. I've often thought that one of the best things we could do is not reduce the number of students per class (except in cases of egregious overcrowding - I had an AP Lit class with 45 students and only 40 desks, 5 people were seated at a large table in the back of the room with scrounged-up chairs from the cafeteria), but reduce the number of classes per teacher.

            During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

            by kyril on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:01:49 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  not necessarily (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jjellin, kyril

              since I teach at the school you are describing, perhaps ou will allow me to comment.

              I know that the teachers are willing to take on unreasonable challenges, such as that teacher of AP Lit.   This year I had over 60 kids signed up for AP Gov.   I offered to take 33 per class to allow all of them to take it.  Instead the school juggled a bit and gave me three sections, two with 24 and one with only 17.   So I am getting the reasonable size that enables me to get all of the kids participating.

              It is possible to have schools within schools, even beyond what we have done with our academy programs, to enable kids to be better known.

              There is still the real problem of anonymity in the hallway which I know you must have experienced.

              And there are simply some students who need to be in a smaller overall environment.  What worked well for you might not be applicable to everyone.

              Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

              by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:14:35 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well, yes (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                teacherken, Tropical Depression

                Of course some students will benefit from a smaller overall environment, and the schools-within-schools method is an excellent way to achieve a balance there. I know what you mean as far as anonymity - personally I would have preferred a great deal more anonymity than I got (seemed like every adult in that school knew me by name) but there were many others who did get "lost."

                One of the main reasons I loved being at a big school was that it allowed for a large enough population of shy nerdy kids that I actually started to make friends for the first time in my life. For the social-butterfly type, though, this wouldn't be nearly as much of an advantage. If only it were possible to put every kid in a school that suited them!

                During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

                by kyril on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:24:18 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  I think that we need schools of all sizes (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril

            I like the fact that my two kids attend a very large high school. After all, the world is rather large and I think that dipping their toes into the water at age 16 is a good idea. I believe that it will help them once they move outside the cocoon that is their own community.

            Gates is wrong, IMHO, to assume that smaller is always better.

            "Using church pews as precincts, Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat" --- Bill Moyers

            by Spoonfulofsugar on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:06:02 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  It's true (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    two roads

    that teachers are mightily important. It's also true that as a truism it has the same half-hearted Hallmark smell as any other comfortable piety. I wonder if it's because the work teachers do goes on inside a church-like insitution called a school. And because school is compulsory we are not really free to give "education" the respect it deserves. Whatever else they are, teachers are also wardens, and people cannot escape the correspondingly cowed and resentful feeling towards them any more than they can escape their ambivalent feelings towards the clergy, who purportedly represent the freshness of Spirit but are ineluctably associated with the manacles of institutional dogma. What teachers do is important. I think it's good that that importance remains largely unacknowledged. Sacred things do not thrive under the glare of public adulation. Exhibit 1): professional sports. Ah the sweet fruits of money and respect.

    "Your point. Their village." --Zhivago to Strelnikov

    by ailanthus on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 06:11:25 AM PST

    •  Truth is an important concept! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tryptamine, Spoonfulofsugar, kyril

      Students are not prisoners, and teachers are ont wardens or guards.  Society demands schools do so much of its discipline.  We have to discipline students for drinking and smoking and take away their extra-curricular activities.  I have no idea why schools are forced by state associations to regulate students behavior.

      That may cause the warden idea, but we must get away from that if we are to teach students.

  •  support for teachers (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tryptamine, boji, SherriG, ER Doc, kyril, two roads

    I am volunteering at my son's elementary - just a few hours can make such a difference. I help the reading teacher, and while most of what I do just now is just background prep like cutting, gluing, etc.  just my presence helps her with and endless parade of kids with a wide variety of reading problems. I like to think the kids are helped by just seeing another adult CARES about their success.

    I can't make big contributions to every fundraiser, but I know that a little of my time helps out the school, and I encourage anyone with the ability to do the same.

    I also have been passing on books recommended by teacherken to the principal!

    The pump don't work 'cause a vandal took the handle.

    by Chun Yang on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 06:11:48 AM PST

  •  i am going to use this diary (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, ER Doc, kyril, two roads

    to end a note of love to my old Drama teacher  now teaching in El Cerrito high school in th Bay area. However, I was one of his first students when he was first learning to teach in Memorial school in San Antonio.  He ut his taching teeth on us Mexican American kiddies. So if you know him tell him somebody named TexMex on the daily Kos still loves him alot.

    whoo, I bought a house in Texas!

    by TexMex on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 06:28:36 AM PST

    •  What a wonderful idea (0+ / 0-)

      In the spirit of that, let me send out my thanks to a brilliant Latin teacher by the name of Mrs. Squier and a much-loved band teacher named Mrs. Wagner, both teaching at a certain large high school somewhere in the DC Metro area. Mrs. Squier wouldn't be caught dead on a liberal blog, but I love her anyway. Thanks for everything!

      -Grace

      During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

      by kyril on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:06:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  she and I share a lot of kids (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril

        and we are good friends despite our strong political differences.  

        When the school was listed first in a piece about great schools by Jay Mathews in the Washington Post Magazine a few years ago, there were four teachers mentioned, the two in your comment, Dr. Barbara Baker (the choir teacher who is retiring at the end of this year) and yours truly.

        For those who don't know, the aforementioned Latin teacher is herself a Disney Award winner.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

        by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:10:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Dr. Baker's retiring? (0+ / 0-)

          I never had time for choir, but she's such a wonderful person, touched so many lives, even mine as I first shyly made my home in the band hallway as a sophomore. I'll be home for Alumni Band this year I think, and will have to make sure to wish her well.

          During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

          by kyril on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:16:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  she is definitely retiring (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril

            there are some other notables who will be leaving as well.  I am reasonably certain that a certain nationally certified math teacher is going to leave.  As I've noted, I might be leaving.   I know of at least 5 other relatively senior teachers who are considering it -  the quality of students who are arriving has been negatively impacted by NCLB, and the district is moving more in the direction of mandatory unit exams that might be required across all schools.  So far we have been able to avoid that, but if we begin to lose our flexibility a lot of people who are eligible to retire might bail.   The real worry would be if we were forced to go to A-day B-day schedules like most of the rest of the high schools in district.    Absent our hybrid schedule there is no way we could offer the variety of courses that we do.

            Oh, and if you do stop by for alumni band, see if you can say hello.   I bark (really, ask my students), I growl, but I don't bite.

            Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

            by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:22:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Will do! (0+ / 0-)

              That's very sad though. I know nobody can go on teaching forever, and of course you probably have plenty of wonderful young teachers who will shine in a few years, but...the reasons for leaving are just really depressing. NCLB and standardized testing...mediocrity for all.

              During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

              by kyril on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:27:17 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  I adored my drama teacher, too. (0+ / 0-)

      This was back in the sixties. She would not only spend time in class with us, but take us out after school to just experience different things (including a Buddhist prayer meeting).

      Sometimes those 'outings' included entire weekends out of town at statewide festivals and competitions.

      If we were late to another class for reasons having nothing to do with her or drama, she was still a reliable source of 'excuse' notes (the other teachers pretty much hated her).

      During the semester she would insist that we all attend plays given by other schools, and would hold get-togethers for drama students from other schools so that we ended up working as an inter-school drama community.

      And during a big teachers strike (this was in LA), she held rehearsals for the coming musical(Man of La Mancha) at her home, and 'encouraged'us not to cross the picket line (school was still technically in session).

      But my penultimate memory is of a 'living theater' experiment, where we rehearsed an extremely avant garde play at school, the performances of which subsequently occurred at random on the beach, with the ocean as a backdrop. We would simply start the performance unannounced, with no audience, and continue through 'till the end, usually finding that several dozen people were sitting in rapt attention. It was her illustration of the point that if you concentrate on doing what you love, the people will find you.

      In short, of any teacher I ever had, she taught me the most about life, including valuing nonconformity and standing up for my convictions. But most of all, she taught me the joy of art.

      The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. - H.L. Mencken

      by two roads on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 10:46:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A poem: (7+ / 0-)

    Art Link

    Fire
    Teaching

    There must be a spark
    to which tinder
    can be judiciously applied
    to get a smolder
    (Or is the spark
    applied to the tinder?)
    With skill the smoldering tinder
    gives rise to a flicker
    and then a flame
    to which the kindling is added
    leading to creation
    of a real fire
    with the introduction
    of the hard wood
    How delicate is the the process
    that it can so easily be derailed
    I am a teacher
    It is my job
    to nurture the fire
    There is rarely
    a second chance
    if this flame dies

    --Robyn Elaine Serven
    --December 6, 2005

  •  Teachers really do matter... (4+ / 0-)

        I still remember fondly the high school math teacher, Mrs. Barker. They called her "Geometry Jane", although not to her face. She was the "new, young, pretty teacher" in the school when my ten-years-older brother had her, and she taught five of us in my family, in all. She still lives in my home town. In my small school, she taught every math class above Algebra I, so I had her for three years. She was probably the brightest person I knew, at that time.
         And my Chemistry and Physics teacher, Mr. Anderson, who got very little respect from the students, although he really was, in retrospect, very smart. I still remember the "light going on" in my head when he lined up all the factors in a complicated physics problem and "canceled out" all the units so that the units left over were the ones expected in the answer. I realized, "Hey, that's not really so hard!"
         And the Band teacher, Mr. Graf, who replaced another popular teacher just before my sophomore year, and initiated the high school musicals (not a cliché at the time!) in my school. I can still remember the lyrics to all the show tunes we had to learn for the three musicals we did while I was there (Carousel, My Fair Lady, and Oklahoma!).  

    -5.12, -5.23

    We are men of action; lies do not become us.

    by ER Doc on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 06:49:10 AM PST

  •  Neocons vs. teachers (7+ / 0-)

       There is a small gaggle of neocons in my home town.  They are constantly going on about the size of the school budget and how teachers are paid way too much, given they only work nine or ten months of the year.
       As the son of teachers, let me offer a few thoughts.
       First, in my home town, virtually all the high school's graduates go on to college.  In my graduating class of 200, 194 went on to college.  Most of the town, though nominally Republican and conservative, consider the schools to be the reason folks live there in the first place.  The citizens, or at least those with children, want a first-rate education.  The high school routinely sends its graduates on to Dartmouth, Brown, Princeton, U of Pennsylvania, American University, Wellsley, Smith, Tufts, etc.  There is (or was until recently) a Duke basketball player who graduated from my high school and got into Duke strictly on academics.
       Second, as the son of teachers, I know of the things we could not do as children, my sisters and I, because there was not sufficient money.  We all worked.  We all needed aid to go to college.  We were not, though, aware that we were as not well-to-do as we actually were.  We had other things.  Our parents were respected in the community because they were teachers.  It was enough that they were educated and taught.  It was considered a status unto itself.
       The neocon ethos infecting the land these days expects teachers (and many other government workers) to live in small, efficiency apartments and never marry or have children.  Who educated them, one wonders?

  •  If you were screwed up, blame a teacher (0+ / 0-)

    I remember being viciously berated by a teacher for bragging after I won a spelling bee.  (The school wanted to move me from kindergarten to the fifth grade, but only moved me up to the second on account on social development concerns.)  From that day on, I despised school intensely, blazing new trails in creative truancy.  Even though I went on to earn two graduate degrees later in life, my potential was for the most part lost.

    Suffice it to say that a teacher really did make a difference in my life.

    There's a reason why most of our leaders come from prep schools: Our public school system is and always has been a bastion of marginal mediocrity, staffed primarily by imbeciles who couldn't hope to make it in any of the real professions.  Until and unless we are prepared to invest in our best and brightest, we have no hope of competing with the rest of the world in this information-driven society.

    •  your comment is b/s on several accounts (6+ / 0-)

      go through the last 11 presidents, post FDR.  Only 3 went to prep school --  Kennedy and the two Bushes

      go through most of the leaders of Fortune 500 companies - they did not go to prep school

      go through the membership of the House and the Senate - a majority of both bodies are products of public schools

      are there bad public school teachers? Yep, and there are bad parochial school teachers, bad prep school teachers as well.  Assholes are not loimited by location.

      And perhaps judging by your rhetoric in this comment you have not learned what that teacher tried for you to learn - that bragging like that might be inappropriate.  

      You are lucky diary has slipped off recommended list or you might find some of the readers troll-rating your comment.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 07:32:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My overarching point is (0+ / 0-)

        that we don't reward excellence in education (unlike we do in football and business) and in many instances, we punish it.  That is why our children are so far behind those of other countries in science and math ... but our kids feel better about themselves. Which is going to go further in fostering future success: a good self-image, or actual knowledge?

        If someone troll-rates me for my candid opinion, that says more about them than it does about me.  

        •  actually we do reward excellence (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril

          and if that was your overarching point, a lot of the verbiage you offered was totally off that point.

          As far as rewarding excellence in education, there are tons of merit scholarships.  We have national competitions in science, math, history, Latin, Russian, and so on.  I know because some of the students in the school in which I teach are active participants, including last year's top prize winner in the Intel Science fair as well as several other award winners in that same event.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

          by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:35:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think that some of the... (0+ / 0-)

            ...noise about "rewarding excellence" comes from the frustration business-types like myself feel when we see that the best teachers make the same amount of money as the worst teachers.

            Yes, there are powerful intangible benefits to teaching...as the quotes in this diary illustrate.  But people need to eat and pay mortgages.

            If we start giving more money to the best teachers, the quality of education will rise.  

            Now, who are "the best" teachers?  Well, that's a topic for another thread.

    •  I went to a private high school (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, Spoonfulofsugar, kyril

      and now teach in a public high school.  The public teachers are better, and it is not even close.

      The private school teachers receive about 2/3 of the pay and no retirement plan.  These private schools generally attract teachers who cannot get jobs in public schools, in addition to alumni.

      •  So, why do parents spend so much time and money (0+ / 0-)

        getting their children into the best private schools (e.g., Mitt Romney (Cranbrook))?

        •  some parent do, and others (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          noweasels, kyril

          buy houses in neighborhoods served by good schools.  I went to high school in suburban New York, and among my schoolmates were children of industrial leaders like the head of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the musical director of the Metropolitan Opera, the head of the Lexington School for the Deaf, some of the top lawyers and doctors in the United States, including the heads of several notable Wall Street Law firms, the heads of several major stock brokerage firms.

          And we also had children of gardners, stone masons, taxi cab drivers, etc.

          You paint with far too broad strokes.   Some people are concerned with the networking aspects.  They start trying to plan out the lives of their children for possible future connections.  But it is fascinating to see how many heads of major corporations did NOT attend prep schools, or even Ivies or similarly highly selective colleges and universities.

          Oh, and at the time Romney was attending Cranbrook, given his age, there were a number of public high schools in the Detroit area that probably had as high if not higher academic reputations among the better colleges.  I went to camp with people both from those publics and from Cranbook (at Interlochen) and in most cases the attendance at Cranbrook indicated little beyond classism.   That may have changed some in the intervening 4 plus decades, but it is not completely gone.

          I was accepted at prep school and chose to stay in public.  In fact, I was told if I was willing to spend two years I could even attend Andover (where I would therefore have been a classmate of the current President).  I look at the success of that class at Andover and I look at my high school classmates and I think we did just fine, thank you.  Which may be why a number of my classmates bought houses in the town in which we grew up, so their kids could attend the same schools.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

          by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:43:20 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The difference between Cranbrook (0+ / 0-)

            and the joke of a public school system I attended was like night and day.  Bloomfield Hills might have had a decent reputation, but most of us kids in blue-collar households were given an education that emphasized and even glorified mediocrity.  When you "get it" in five minutes, while your classmates don't get it in a week, your days are poisoned by a profound boredom.

            •  that may be, but (0+ / 0-)

              that doesn't mean you should universalize your own experience.

              Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

              by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 11:25:31 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I can extrapolate from my own experience to (0+ / 0-)

                explain why we are consistently getting pummeled in international math and science competitions: We're not investing nearly enough in our best and brightest, striving instead for uniform mediocrity.

                •  You CAN, but not with any validity (0+ / 0-)

                  for one thing, most of the international comparisons to which you refer are badly flawed, and insofar as they have any meaning, they do not show a large statistical difference between the US and most other countries.  For another, most of the comparisons are not apples to apples.   But I am not going to bother to explain the basics of this to you.   You can go read Bracey or Rotberg among others if you want to understand.  That politicians constantly refer to this 'data' is because it is an easy scare tactic, especially for those who want to bash public schools.

                  For another, there is no connection from your individual experience to international testing, unless you can show that your school was part of the testing process. Thus even if there were validity to the statistics you have still shown no connection to your own individual experience.  Your attempt to generalize has no meaningful basis.

                  It is obvious that you were burned and are bitter from your public school experience.  If you want to bash public schools, you have freedom of speech.  I would suggest that you present more cogent arguments if you expect people here to take you seriously.   I have tried to gently point some things out to you -  at this point I have more important things to do.

                  Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

                  by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 03:13:33 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

        •  One of the main reasons (0+ / 0-)

          seems to be that the parents spend all that time and money so they can choose who their child sits next to in class.

          The often do not want their child sitting next to someone who is different.

  •  Thanks for this excellent diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, kyril, stretchslr53

    I know many of my teachers had a big impact on me.

    My fifth grade teacher was a truly exceptional woman, and one of the first adults who really seemed to respect me other than my family. For years afterwards I would ride my bike over to her house to visit and she always had lemonade and cookies on hand, so I must not have been the only one.

    In junior high a group of my friends and I started writing stories, and our Language Arts teacher not only encouraged us to write, she also read all our stories (and some of mine got pretty long) and gave us extra credit for them.

    Those are a couple of the teachers who really had an effect on me. There were others, but those two are the ones I remember best.

    "You can dream the American Dream, but you sleep with the lights on and wake up with a scream" - Warren Zevon

    by thursdays child on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 07:45:17 AM PST

  •  A friend of mine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril

    was at a funeral the other day and the eulogy was given by a local private school principal.  That lady principal thanked my friend who made a difference and told her she could do things back when my friend was teaching.

    My friend has influenced hundreds by influencing this one lady.  

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat Wednesday evenings 8 PM EST

    by cfk on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:17:06 AM PST

  •  Teachers get used to being unappreciated... (4+ / 0-)

    Back when I taught in a public high school, I didn't have a classroom.  Since, you know, it's unimportant for a biology teacher to have a stable classroom with labs and whatnot.  But I digress...

    Anyway, one of my "classrooms" was occupied by a fantastic math teacher, one who taught the least-prepared kids in the school and did a damn good job of it.  She was working at her desk during her planning period when the principal came by with "teacher appreciation week" mugs, handed them to us, and thanked us for the work we did.  I of course saw this as a meaningless gesture, but...

    She started crying, and told me that in her twelve years of teaching, not once had anyone come into her classroom for the sole purpose of saying thank you.

    •  our parents are good about thanking us (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      noweasels, Spoonfulofsugar, kyril

      every year during teacher appreciation week they put together a fantastic lunch for us.  It is greatly appreciated.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:37:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Definitely not true at that school... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, kyril

        I sat through the open house waiting for parents to show up to learn about their child's teachers for the semester.

        Out of 90-100 students, one parent showed up.  The (generally wealthier) parents of kids in honors classes had much higher attendance but like me, this teacher taught entirely lower-level courses.

        •  I have never had more than (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken, Gray, kyril

          20 parents in a given night.  That includes years when I had 90 honors and AP students.

          •  my experience always different (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Gray, kyril

            in my AP classes I usually get parents of about 2/3 of kids.   Sometimes since I have taught older siblings they may drop me a note that they are not coming, but since I give extra credit equivalent to about .5% of the grade for the quarter, all the kids want their parents to come  (I give a similar boost for attending the college fair - I want even my 10th graders looking ahead).

            In my regular classes the rate of attendance is far lower.  But often that is not because of lack of interest.  Those classes have a higher percentage of students where the parents lack competence in English, or may be working 2nd jobs, or have no child care for younger siblings.  

            Schools often have to make adjustments to make the staff more accessible to parents.  Of course, many of our teachers have major commitments to their own families and it is hard to have more flexibility.

            Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

            by teacherken on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 08:56:37 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  After a 40 year career in education (7+ / 0-)

    I find myself continually frustrated.  Although I have "officially" retired, twice now I have gone back to the district to fill in for a semester when they could not find someone to fill the position.

    What I have noticed (and started to notice before retirement in 2004 since NCLB had already started to have an adverse affect) is that my colleagues who are long experienced looked more and more tired and worn and in despair because they KNOW what is happening is wrong, and they feel powerless to change it.  
    And the younger teachers look flustered and tense and not at all enjoying the children.

    While most of my career (32 years worth) I was in the classroom, I spent the last part as the media center specialist.  When I went back after retirement that is what I did.  When I took a class into the library, I was so happy to be able to let go of the shackles of "practice for the test, teach to the test, drill and practice, drill and practice".  Instead I could read "The Library Dragon" out loud, and be funny and scary and get kids all excited about READING for pleasure (an antiquated concept). Of course in the midst of the fun I would be teaching the little ones the difference between fiction and non-fiction.  We talk about who was the most important character in the book.  

    Teaching at its best allows both teacher and students to be engaged, excited, interested, confused, questioning, wondering.  NCLB has teachers back to playing "sage on the stage" in a most boring way.  
    *We now train students to construct and confine their writing and thinking.  DON'T GO OUTSIDE THE BOX is a literal instruction for students. Get it all in the box they provide on the test less you lose points. What the heck are we teaching them? Don't you dare think outside the box!! YIKES.  Can we be more wrong about that?  
    *Remember that a simile uses "like, as" and don't spend too much time enjoying how the words make you see and visualize.  Organize, organize, organize and NO, there is no time for free flow discourse.

    As a retired teacher some of my greatest gifts have been hearing from students I taught thirty years ago.
    One found me on the Internet and just wrote just to say "thank you for the positive impact".  Another called my parents old number which happened to belong to my sister's number at the time and she helped him get in touch. He called just to say thanks. (It was kind of weird hearing a man's voice and still picturing a 11 year old). Being nominated for awards by parents/former students always felt good.

    Yes, more money would have been nice too. And as I see younger teachers leaving the profession, I know more money and getting rid of a law that is hurting students and forcing teachers to leave is important if we are to attract and keep gifted creative teachers.  My own nephew who started middle school teaching and LOVED IT and was doing well, left because in central Florida the pay was so low, he could not afford to support the family he was just starting.  He hopes to go back some day.

    In my retirement I always dreamed of being able to work with young teachers: teach courses, work with them as a mentor.  Now I see that it is impossible  because what I would say to young teachers would be frowned upon by administrators, especially those under the gun to IMPROVE THOSE SCORES.

    With NCLB, every child is left behind, but it is especially detrimental to children in low income schools where the arts, music, recess, even PE in some instances are cut out of the schools.
    It disturbs me that none of our candidates spend much time on this issue.  It saddens me that education for so many is an issue being ignored.  

    Thanks for the diary, teacherken.  

    •  You just described my current observations (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, two roads

      I have a quote to describe the current state of teaching, teacherken :

      "The beatings will continue until morale improves!"

      (Couldn't find the source)

      Luckily, most classrooms have a door...

      "Using church pews as precincts, Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat" --- Bill Moyers

      by Spoonfulofsugar on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:38:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The 'more personal attention' for a child... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, two roads

    Should come from the parent anyway.

    Learning doesn't start and stop at school. I'm always interested in what my kids (my girlfriend's, actually) are learning in school and I always try to nudge them into telling me what they are taking away from the things they study.

    Sometimes I have to bite my tongue when I read their text books, but I bet every generation can say that. Math and science can be especially troubling. Gravity was being discussed recently and it showed the inverse square formula for gravitational force and then gave a few examples.

    It didn't actually teach anything qualitative about it. When I asked my daughter if she can think of why that formula hold true, she didn't know, which confirmed my suspicion that it wasn't covered elsewhere. I pointed her to another formula and watched her eyes light up. The formula was for the surface area of a sphere, which increases by the square of the radius - in other words, as distance increases, gravity diminishes by the same amount that surface area grows.

    I told her that she could think of gravity as being the same thing as curved space and told her to picture an air hockey whose surface was a thin sheet of rubber. Then picture different size ball bearings placed on the rubber and what they would do to a a small puck sliding along the surface.

    It at least gave her a qualitative picture in her head and I think that can go a great distance in learning.

    I was happiest as a heathen.

    by MouseOfSuburbia on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:10:08 AM PST

    •  Was the formula for gravity in a history book? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MouseOfSuburbia

      I jest, but only partly.

      When my 16-year old foster kid first started a history class (several years ago) he was coming home particularly frustrated over that class.

      I have a great love of the subject, am well read, and so I thought 'no problem'. We agreed we would spend a weekend catching him up. As a preface, I squirreled myself away with his textbook.

      Long story short: his textbook managed to make me hate both history and reading. It had no narrative at all, and jumped at random from event to event without detail or context. Although this is not exact, the following is the flavor of what I was reading:

      In 1825 John Stevens  built a test track and ran a locomotive around it in Hoboken, New Jersey. That same year, the Creek Indians of Georgia relocated west of the Mississippi River to an equivalent parcel of land along the Arkansas River. John Quincy Adams was president at the time.

      And yes, that is a slight exaggeration, but not far off from what I actually read. The book was pure drek.

      And my facetious question about the formula for gravity? In the midst of the section about early American history, and as far as I could tell pretty much apropos of nothing, was a two-page treatise, including formulas, on the theory of statistics.

      I asked (demanded) a meeting with the administrators and teacher. I brought the book. I asked exactly what was the goal of the book/course? They seem perplexed at the question, and could only repeat: 'To learn history'. And when I replied, 'To learn what about history, specifically', they could only muster 'names and dates'.

      It was after that meeting that I quit my job (counseling foster kids), pulled my kid from the school and enrolled along with him in an independent study program, spending the next year, in class and out, as his co-student and tutor.

      The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. - H.L. Mencken

      by two roads on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 10:19:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's terrible (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        two roads

        Science and math textbooks can be difficult to make enjoyable, but there is no excuse for a history book to be dull and uninformative.

        History has dates, but it's not about dates; it's about events, and events have a progression and they are often intertwined with other events. That's what makes history interesting.

        History is cool. All learning is cool. Someone should tell the writers of these textbooks.

        I was happiest as a heathen.

        by MouseOfSuburbia on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 11:05:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  And now for a dose of reality. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril


    We can only ever judge from personal (anecdotal) experience, but mine has been so far from the idealized dedicated professional portrayed above that I wonder if we live on different planets.

    I have reams of material from my own school experiences in the sixties, but I'll leave that aside in favor of what I've seen in the last 10 years.

    As the owner of a marketing/graphics business (since sold) I participated in a work-study program with local high schools. Each semester I had two or three students who would come in to learn and work for a couple hours each day. I thought it would be mutually beneficial: kids would learn graphics and I would get some much-needed help.

    I will never forget my first student ever. Great kid. Eager to help. On his first project I told him we would need a margin of 1-1/2 inches. He froze and stared at me. It turned out this kid was terrified of having to work with fractions, and couldn't get past the inch marks on a ruler.

    We put aside the work. I spent the next two hours teaching simple fractions (using 4 apples as an example). Then we covered decimal fractions over the next week (still using apples).

    Although I blamed his parents as well, here's what stunned me: he told me of being literally called stupid by his teachers. As a result, he totally withdrew and simply stopped asking questions in class.

    And over the coming semesters I had almost uniform experiences with my other work-study kids. And I gave up on the idea of getting much help from them, and discretely worked my way into using the time to tutor them on whatever subjects they found most difficult. And almost uniformly they would tell their own horror stories about callous, indifferent teachers who blocked their path to learning (my expression, not theirs).

    Later, when I became the foster dad to a 16 year-old severely emotionally disturbed youth with learning disabilities I experienced the modern school system first hand. I was extremely involved in his education. What I experienced was perhaps 10% of his teachers were the 'dedicated professionals' of the ideal, and the rest were drones who functioned more as bureaucrats than true teachers (with a select few who seemed better suited to law enforcement than anything having do with education).

    Yes, there's plenty of blame to go around -- including the administrators, the parents, and the system itself. But that doesn't excuse the teacher's part in turning education into a demoralizing and even dehumanizing experience for many.

    So here's to the ten percent, those who know that the true teacher passes along a love of learning, and makes children want to thrive. But let's also face the reality of the ninety percent who the children must also endure to their detriment, and ours.

    The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. - H.L. Mencken

    by two roads on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:38:27 AM PST

    •  Unfortunately I have some agreement here also (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      two roads

      I've noted elsewhere that my mother was a math and reading tutor, mostly for learning disabled kids, but over time she found herself getting more and more business from ordinary kids who fell behind grade level. Fractions were always the major sticking point in math. Reading was more complicated, but usually came down to a failure in understanding basic phonics.

      However, I've only encountered a very few "bad" teachers myself; most seem to be more overworked, undertrained and frustrated than anything. Teaching to standardized tests has been a major stumbling block for many, as has the fact that most new teachers today have been educated in the same system with the same failures and are passing those failures down to their own students.

      My mother's opinion was always that the problem in elementary schools was the focus in college education programs on teaching technique over content; she was irritated to no end by the fact that elementary education majors were only required to take math and science courses aimed at non-math and science majors. I'm not sure if she's right, but it's a plausible argument; however, advanced college math courses won't necessarily make up for a failure to understand elementary math concepts. They might help, however, in either educating prospective teachers out of the attitude that "math is hard" (which even when not explicitly stated can still be conveyed to the students) or perhaps screening out those who can't or won't do it.

      During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

      by kyril on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 09:51:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  it's all rather sad (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    I've generally thought that so-called "inspirational quotes" are often useless. They're sometimes what the school bureaucracy feeds us in place of real attention and meaning from teachers.
    Of course, your analysis and thought made all the difference. The real meat of such quotes is not in the quotes themselves, but the broad thoughts that they summarize so neatly.
    My mom is a college instructor, and she always is horrified by the huge student loads that ordinary teachers have to cope with. Most teachers are overworked and undervalued; it's a fact that I try to sympathize with as well as a high school student can. I tend to be critical of my teachers at first, but those I respect, I respect unconditionally.
    It's unfortunate that many people (myself included) feel so foolish or nervous going out of their way to offer a small courtesy or thanks - not only to teachers, either.

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