Mix Three Dashes of Common Sense, A Splash of Respect, A Smidge of the Impossible and STAND BACK!
Warning: refresh your coffees. lattes, cocktails (Hey, who am I to judge?) now because it’s about to get heavy up in here.
I was catching up on my reading this morning, when I stumbled upon this little old commentary by a professor at Williams College. Natch, I was immediately drawn to the title What It Takes To Become a Good Teacher. Call me crazy, but words like this speak to me.
After reading the first few sentences, I was hooked. So much of it seems like common sense to me, but evidently it is more like rocket science for The Powers That Be who are frantically designing new teacher-proof curriculum and assessments and basically doing everything they can to leave teachers totally out of the equation. Listen to this. She writes, “…all those other modifications are for nothing, if we can’t put good teachers into our schools.” And I’m all BAM! IN YOUR FACE! (I’m not sure who I’m talking to, but these sort of statements tend to pump me up.)
Then she cites one of my personal faves Jerome Bruner, who wrote “…you can no more make a curriculum that’s teacher-proof than you can make a family that’s parent-proof.”
BOO-YAH! FACIAL SCRUB! RUB YOUR FACES IN THAT! (Again, not sure who I’m yelling at, but it sure feels good.) (Insert fist pumping here.)
The article continues with this gem, “Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher…” Um THANK YOU. I know I’ve said it many times before, and maybe it makes me unpopular with some, BUT (I will say it anyway) good intentions are not enough to make a good teacher. Honestly, I think it’s lovely that you want to help the children but if that’s all you’ve got or you think that’s enough, you can take your good intentions and go find a lovely place looking for volunteers. I’m sure they’d love to have you and thanks for stopping by.
The article also discusses all the “training” teachers need to become truly great. While I am totally on-board with the idea that becoming a good teacher is a process filled with a lifetime of learning and development, I don’t love the word “training.” (I mean, do we really need in invoke images of circus animals or house breaking a new puppy when speaking about our profession?) But I digress because I really enjoyed this commentary. The author lists a much more comprehensive look at the learning needs of the teacher: a knowledge of child development, an understanding of curriculum and how to make it come alive, an ability to make the tedious fun and relevant, the skill to handle difficult children and communicate effectively with parents, how to assess, how to use assessment results thoughtfully (Instead of just giving more assessments which seems to be the latest disturbing trend and one with which I have sadly had much experience.), and how to keep teaching well when “buried by bureaucracy” (and what she is afraid to say, the ability to soldier on when sometimes working with people who strike you as well, morons.)
“It is also vital that these student-teachers have a chance to develop their skills before they are put in charge of a tough group of kids in a school with problems” Um, hi, fast track teacher certification programs, I’m looking at YOU. What’s up? Not to be a total hater because on occasion truly wonderful people are discovered through your programs BUT if traditional certification routes are criticized for not providing enough hands on time in the classroom with a skilled mentor teacher, can someone please explain the thinking by speeding up the entire process? I’m not hating on those teachers AT ALL – I AM 100% ON THE SIDE OF ALL WONDERFUL HARD-WORKING TEACHERS NO MATTER HOW YOU GOT THERE – I’m just wondering if any of them felt ready for what they faced in their classrooms? I mean, isn’t there a better way to attract smart, motivated, dedicated people from other careers AND also prepare them to be at their best in the classroom?? And if we can all agree that the above mentioned list of knowledge and skills are essential to good teaching, why are we trying to cram this up people’s behinds in like six weeks?
And, while we’re being honest with each other, may I please address almost every preparation program everywhere? I’m just curious, what’s the obsession with teaching us nine billion different ways to organize a lesson plan or sort our manipulatives when really teaching is SO MUCH MORE than basic organization 101 (although I heart organizing) and a collection of discrete skills? I’m just saying…
Now I know the author’s idea that we need to provide free teacher education might be a little out there. I agree with the idea that “…one good teacher is worth ten good assessment tools,” but should I plant the money tree now, or wait until spring? Because we’re going to need a whole orchard here. I think what she’s saying is that our money is being poorly allocated to all sorts of scientific, teacher-proof curriculum when it could be used to fund better teacher prep programs which is true. Not sure how that is going to happen, but true.
So, snaps for talking about the breadth and depth of teaching with such respect, sister.
Just something for us to mull over while you enjoy the shit out of your three-day weekend. HOLLA!