10.22.2008

Response to a Response

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The Issue":

I agree with him. It's better to have a teacher who hasn't passed their boards in a classroom then have no teacher at all. It isn't as if these people are taking jobs away from certified teachers. They are going into places that are underserved, and are working in areas that no one else wants to work. These programs should be applauded.



This cuts right to the heart of the problem: people have this misguided idea that ANYONE can stand in front of a classroom and teach kids. THAT IS A LIE. Not only can it have a negative effect on the classroom environment, but it can also have a deliterious effect on students' perception of education as a whole. Not to mention, it propogates this assumption that teaching is not a real profession.

Let me ask you this: is it okay to send an untrained surgeon into an operating room, just because you need somebody to take over? Are you fine with an ordinary guy off the street coming in to perform your root canal, because you need it done now? If I profess a desire to fly a commercial plane, are you willing to let me man the controls in the cockpit because you've got an airport full of potential passengers? Who do you want running the show when you're excavating the newest pyramid, the eager but untrained fourth grader, or the professor who's trained in collecting and analyzing those artifacts?

It's easy, isn't it? You want the one who knows what he's doing. WHY SHOULD TEACHING BE ANY DIFFERENT?

Hey, guess what: I have a degree in education. As a matter of fact, unlike most people who've graduated from a teacher prep course, my degree actually SAYS Bachelor of Science in Education. That's how much education training I got--I'm not a plain ol' B.S. grad; I have been adequately taught in the SCIENCE of EDUCATION. And guess what else: I'm not some business school dropout who suddenly decided, "If you can't, teach." No, I VOLUNTEERED to be an educator, and I continue to volunteer my services EVERY SINGLE DAY because Lord knows it's not something I would come back to if I weren't fully committed.

McCain's plan, articulated by his own education advisor in a debate that was--tragically--not broadcast on television (transcript here), is that we should offer incentives to the top 25% of graduates in EVERY area (notably, not those who graduate with education degrees) to go into the schools and, presumably, spread their excellence to impressionable students.

But the truth is, graduates in ALMOST EVERY OTHER FIELD can get entry level jobs in their FIRST CHOICE CAREERS and make twice as much as I do in my ninth year of teaching. So where do you think those kids go, to the mailroom at the company they really want to work at, or to a bureaucratic, over-govermentalized, stress-inducing, zero-status, aggregiously low-paying second- or third- or fifteenth-choice job? It doesn't take a math genius to figure out those percentages.

Plus, it completely discounts the fact that many, MANY highly motivated, high achieving graduates are actually ALREADY in the education program. Because I will tell you plainly, there are not a lot of people who make it all the way through the teacher prep programs if they don't really want to be there, and if you ever talk to a group of teachers, they will be happy to tell you all about their class standings, their ACT/SAT scores, their GPAs, and the amount of work they have done to maintain all of the above; I have seldom met a bigger group of nerds than teachers, and you can quote me on that.

What McCain does here is basically tell those people who have already chosen the teaching profession that THEY'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH, and, in effect, that if they were smart, they wouldn't have gone to the college of education in the first place. Once again, it validates that old myth that teaching isn't a top-tier job, that it's a fallback for losers, and that the only people who chose teaching are those that failed in their first-choice professions.

My guess is that the majority of the non-teaching public thinks, "I went to school for X years; I could be a teacher." By that "logic," I could give haircuts at the local salon, because I've gotten my hair cut who-knows-how many times. I guess I could make some laws, because I've dimpled some chads in my time. I've been to a police station, so I think they should issue me a gun and let me arrest people. I've watched baseball on television, so put me in, coach! I've paid someone to alter clothes for me, so you should definitely let me make your wedding dress; I'll do a good job, I PROMISE. And, hey, I've owned stocks, so please let me take over your portfolio; I've heard some stuff about buying real estate lately.

WHAT KIND OF CRACKED UP THINKING IS THAT.

Sure, TfA and Troops to Teachers put a body in front of a class, but that's not what teaching is. It's not enough for me to stand over my students and keep them quiet and tell them to read from their textbooks; that doesn't teach them anything except that school is boring and horrible and teachers are lazy and mean. A teacher--a REAL teacher--does so much more than give lectures and worksheets and grades.

Until politicians society as a whole realizes this, teachers will not be viewed as career professionals, but as low-achieving, unmotivated failures who have no business complaining about how "easy" they have it. And that is, with apologies to my mother, a load of old bullsh*t.

9 comments:

mom said...

I hope you're only apologizing to me for the last word and not for the rest of your post. I think you should send it to Bill O'Reilly, who most likely would comment on it on his show and just maybe - some polititician somewhere would hear it. I understand they pay for interviews. You could be on TV as April the Teacher! Also... we're asking all our friends to write your name in for President.

angela said...

You rock. Seriously, your response to 'anonymous' was fabulous. Nuff said. Thanks for the link-- the debate made for interesting watching.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous that prompted your whole post, and I still stand by what I wrote. The quote that you originally talked about talked about people who have not passed their boards. Passing the NTEs does not make one a good teacher. And, I'm sorry, but a BS in Education does not make one either. I agree that not everyone can stand up and teach and be effective. IMO, teaching is a gift that comes from within. A degree can certainly hone that gift, but it does not create the gift. The comparison to a surgeon is a bit extreme. Be honest with yourself; teaching does not require the same amount of precision and knowledge that surgery does. And, also? A degree in Education does not truly mean anything, because half of what you learn in college can't be applied in the classroom anyway - the simple truth of public education is that you have to teach the material that the students will be tested on - the higher the standardized test scores are, the better teacher you are (and no, I don't actually believe that's true, but that's the standard that school boards on up to the Federal Government go by).

While I agree with you on much of what you wrote, I still believe that TfA, in particular, is a great program, and again, passing the NTEs really has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you are a good teacher.

And, for what it's worth, I come from a family of teachers, and have one of those BS degrees in Education myself.

J said...

great response!

i do see both sides, but what anonymous is saying--the heart of it--really cuts right to what you're saying.

there are not enough teachers period, and there are even fewer qualified teachers, and there even fewer GOOD teachers (you are clearly all three!). politicians need to understand that as well as the relationship between work environment and teaching itself. that's why there are so many underserved schools, because no one in their (seemingly) right mind would work at a crippled-by- bureaucracy, falling-down building filled with people that don't have good ideas or good intentions.

would you tell a surgeon to still perform high-quality operations with insufficient lighting, no nurses, and 40-year-old equipment? no. would you tell a surgeon that he/she has to operate with someone standing in the doorway criticizing and correcting technique? NO. you trust the surgeon knows what he/she's doing, has been trained well, and can do the job. Teachers need proper equipment and support and training--that doesn't necessarily come from an alt cert OR a traditional cert program. i've heard of good and bad training from both types.

erm, sorry for the novel. i'm linking to these posts because they are so awesome. thanks for the inspiration!

Mei said...

Mom, if Bill O'Reilly talked about me, I'm afraid I might physically reach through the television and murder him. Not really the impression I'd like to make.

Angela, I watched the debate in my grad class, and we students had PLENTY to say about it.

Anon, the idea that teaching does not require a huge amount of precision and knowledge is preposterous, as well as insulting. I agree that passing a test is no guarantee of good teaching, but is military service or volunteerism in general.

I can see that nothing I say will change your mind, so I am going to end this argument.

J, thanks for the compliments, links, and support. Your examples are really good, and I'll likely use them someday during my debates: ME FOR PRESIDENT!!

Anonymous said...

You are just being rigid. In your heart of hearts, you honestly believe that there is any comparison between surgeons and teachers? That they require the same amount of precision and knowledge? If that's truly insulting to you, you need to stop taking yourself so seriously. A teacher standing in front of her class and forgetting a historical date, or not quite remembering who Piaget is or what he did for education, does not exactly have the same degree of importance as a surgeon in the middle of surgery forgetting which artery to bypass...

All I've learned from this "argument" is that you are clearly someone who is unable to see any other viewpoint but their own. You also are great at twisting others' words around and becoming defensive for no valid reason. (ie, you take the quote "Be honest with yourself; teaching does not require the same amount of precision and knowledge that surgery does", and turn it into "the idea that teaching does not require a huge amount of precision and knowledge." Is that what I said? Um, no. Not at all. As I believe J's response was getting at, I was esentially AGREEING with you in most of my response to you. I'm just a realist, and realize that underserved areas aren't going to get good, qualified teachers; the majority of them are going to go to school districts where they will be more fairly compensated, or, at least, not have to risk their lives each day. Being that that IS the case, you still never actually answered the only question I had, which is why is it then bad to send in uncertified teachers who have the heart to go?

Because I have little tolerance for people who sit around and look for things to be offended about, and are unable to even hear what others are saying, as they are too focused on espousing their own viewpoints, you have lost a reader.

Jen said...

While I know there is a skill set that good teachers should practice, I think comparing teachers to surgeons is a false comparison.

I am "alternatively certified" and came into the high school classroom with an MA in Comp/Rhet to teach speech,drama, and debate. I struggled the first year, just as my peers with education degrees struggled. But I learned, just as the best teachers do.

16 years later, I am still teaching at the same school, am an NBCT in ELA, and consider myself a career teacher.

Working with interns from our state universities has shown me that the people teaching educators to be educators can sometimes be a bit removed from what it's like on the inside.

Mei said...

You are just being rigid. In your heart of hearts, you honestly believe that there is any comparison between surgeons and teachers? That they require the same amount of precision and knowledge?

Actually, yes, I do. While a surgeon needs physical precision, a teacher needs emotional precision. A teacher can cut just as deeply (and as inaccurately) as a surgeon, even though those wounds are not necessarily seen. And, yes, a teacher does need a great deal of knowledge. My kids are going to remember the things I say, so I need to make sure that what I'm saying is correct; otherwise, I may cause lasting damage.

If that's truly insulting to you, you need to stop taking yourself so seriously

If I stop taking myself seriously as a teacher, I will no longer be a good teacher.

A teacher standing in front of her class and forgetting a historical date, or not quite remembering who Piaget is or what he did for education, does not exactly have the same degree of importance as a surgeon in the middle of surgery forgetting which artery to bypass...

See above.

All other professions begin with a teacher. That's a huge responsibility that I am not about to treat lightly.

All I've learned from this "argument" is that you are clearly someone who is unable to see any other viewpoint but their own. You also are great at twisting others' words around and becoming defensive for no valid reason. (ie, you take the quote "Be honest with yourself; teaching does not require the same amount of precision and knowledge that surgery does", and turn it into "the idea that teaching does not require a huge amount of precision and knowledge." Is that what I said? Um, no. Not at all.

The problem with internet communication is that perception is sometimes inaccurate. That's what I got, because your words thus far have been offensive and insulting to me, personally. Furthermore, since I don't know you and you haven't had the balls to identify yourself, I have no way of knowing exactly what your background, tone, or reasons for taking up this argument are. I have every right to be defensive, because you are attacking my opinions.

Let's talk about twisting words around: you focus on my analogy of the surgeon, but you ignored every other example I gave. Does that mean that, yes, I could cut hair or fly planes, etc., but I couldn't go into an OR? By zeroing in on one thing, you have turned the argument into something totally different. What's that kettle look like, pot?

As I believe J's response was getting at, I was esentially AGREEING with you in most of my response to you. I'm just a realist, and realize that underserved areas aren't going to get good, qualified teachers; the majority of them are going to go to school districts where they will be more fairly compensated, or, at least, not have to risk their lives each day.

Being that that IS the case, you still never actually answered the only question I had, which is why is it then bad to send in uncertified teachers who have the heart to go?


I did say I don't feel it's right to send in teachers with just five weeks of training. I also don't feel it's right to guarantee a teaching job based on military service. "Heart" is not enough of a qualification; I had "heart" when I was eighteen, but I was not, by any means, ready to step into a classroom.

And you forget that certification exams don't just test teaching ability; they also test knowledge. I taught at a very small school whose administration needed a social studies teacher but couldn't pay for an extra body. I volunteered to teach the classes because I love history, but before I could open the textbook, I had to pass an exam that said I knew what I was talking about.

I may have the "heart" to be an accountant, but owning a calculator doesn't make me qualified to be an accountant; I have to have the knowledge to back it up. A good teacher doesn't read from a textbook and pass out worksheets. A transfer of knowledge is necessary, and a person who doesn't have the knowledge in the first place shouldn't be trying to teach.

At any rate, my main issue is the disrespect shown to the teaching profession as a whole: the entire theory that anyone can be a teacher. While I do think a natural inclination is necessary, I wouldn't say that teaching is a "calling" or a "gift," because that implies that you already have the ability and don't require any practical knowledge or training.

Because I have little tolerance for people who sit around and look for things to be offended about, and are unable to even hear what others are saying, as they are too focused on espousing their own viewpoints, you have lost a reader.

Oh, I hear what you're saying. I just disagree. That's my right. It's not my intention to please everyone with what I say, and I've never made claims to the contrary. If your response is to pack up your toys and go home, I'm not going to beg you to stay.

Mei said...

Jen -

But you had a background in those areas. You knew what you were talking about. Alternative certification is not a bad thing; there are teachers at my school who are working with alt. cert. right now. However, our alt. cert. biology teachers have degrees in BIOLOGY, and so on.

Sure, an education degree doesn't guarantee success, but it does give a foundation to build on.

16 years later, I am still teaching at the same school, am an NBCT in ELA, and consider myself a career teacher.

You should! But you're also a career learner. You continued your education. You didn't take a job and refuse to grow as a teacher. I know there's a lot involved in National Board Certification, and I applaud your dedication!

Working with interns from our state universities has shown me that the people teaching educators to be educators can sometimes be a bit removed from what it's like on the inside.

I absolutely agree! This is another one of my soapbox issues. It is yet another thing we can put on the list: How to Improve Public Education.

 

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