You Asked For It, Internet
Yesterday, one of my loyal readers and commenters, Institutrice Teacher sent me a link to the following article that suggests young girls may develop a fear of math as a result of their former female teachers’ personal lack of confidence in math.
My initial thoughts upon skimming said article:
1) Sweet, something to blog about.
2) I heart my readers. (Read: send me things!)
3) Are you freaking kidding me with this crap?
As a doctoral candidate, I have been trained (Yeah, I used the word “trained” in this situation. It totally fits. Arf! Arf!) (That was my best trained seal impression.) to dissect articles, look for their validity and assess their contribution to my knowledge base. And while I tried to come at this from a trained doctoral perspective, I’m just too….well, too pissed. (Yeah, I used the word “pissed” in this situation. It totally fits.) In an effort to reign my own rage in, I decided to wait to write about this. You know, until the steam stopped pouring from my ears? But then, OH THEN, this thing blew up all over the internet! Every email that came to my inbox was all, “Dude, it’s totally your fault if any of your former female students blows the math test. You should have listened better in 6th grade…loser.” And I was all, “Oh, internet, it is on.” Because you know what? A lot of people outside of the world of education are going to read this nonsense, feel all empowered and then ruin the day of their child’s poor unsuspecting teacher. Or make up their minds that the failures of the American public education system really ARE all the fault of the teacher. ‘Cuz if it’s on the internet, it must be true, right?
First of all, they are trying to get all Quantitative on us by throwing around numbers. This entire study, THIS ENTIRE STUDY WHICH IS ALL OVER THE INTERNET AND WILL PROBABLY BE ON TV TONIGHT BECAUSE EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD TEACHER BASHING, is based on a study of 17 teachers. SEVENTEEN!! Do you have any idea how many freaking first and second grade teachers there are in this great country of ours??? Do you? (Um, ‘cuz I don’t. But I know the number is WAY BIGGER than 17 and I totally doubt if a sample size of 17 is even statistically significant.)
At least the piece published in the Chicago Tribune saves itself (by not totally blaming the teachers) (because then I would need to go totally postal) at the end by making the recommendation that teacher preparation programs need to beef up their math requirements, which I can’t totally disagree with. I am of the opinion that is a tad too easy to become a teacher these days considering how difficult the job can be.
The LA times article however, conveniently forgets to mention that this entire thing is based off seventeen teachers. Instead, they prefer to make sweeping statements about how the female teachers studied believe that boys are just “hardwired” for math in a way that girls aren’t. Or that female teachers have a pervasive attitude of anxiety towards math.
Ladies, did you hear that? We have math anxiety. (Do they make a pill for that?) Evidently, there were these seven women who have anxiety about math, which means we all must feel the exact same way. You know, because it’s totally cool to make a HUGE GENERALIZATION like “Women are all anxious about math.”
At the end of the article, a professor of Education says that these results were “not surprising” (Sweet. Maybe the math anxiety was passed down to US, ever think about that?!) but then saves herself by questioning if it is fair to single out teachers.
To which I respond, NO IT IS NOT FAIR.
I mean, since they were only dealing with 17 teachers, did they bother to find out what math program or math curriculum these teachers were using? Did they ask whether or not the teachers had received enough professional development on the implementation of said program or curriculum? Did anyone over at the L.A. Times think to question the ways in which these teachers were prepared? Or perhaps investigate how much professional development they had received about new instructional techniques for teaching problem solving since so many of us went to school a billion years ago when it was totally cool to borrow and carry numbers without understanding what the hell that meant? DID ANYONE ANYWHERE EVER STOP TO THINK THAT MAYBE JUST MAYBE NOT EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG WITH EDUCATION IS THE FAULT OF THE TEACHER? Or that constantly blaming teachers is like beating a dead animal…nothing is going to change if it’s already dead, people! The horse is not going to jump up and run away. And the teacher is not going to suddenly stand up and say, “You’re right, thanks for beating me senseless with your incessant criticism yet odd lack of viable suggestions! Let me revolutionize my teaching on my own time with little to no support.”
If only they (meaning everyone on the outside) knew how often we questioned ourselves and our own methods. If only they could see how frequently we look for other sources, other people, other ideas to help us improve upon our craft. If only they could see how much time we spend doing the best that we can with what we have. (Which I know isn’t always good enough, or really even much of an excuse, but it’s all we can do while people choose to continually tear us down rather than roll up their sleeves and actually join forces to get something positive done.)
I guess maybe it’s just cheaper to hit us while we’re down.
And before you’re all, “Geez, Mrs. Mimi can’t take criticism AT ALL,” know that I always welcomed the constructive criticism of my teaching and any professional development that would help me to become a better teacher. Call me crazy, but this just feels a little bit more like the age old tradition of buck passing.
*Throws mike to the floor and walks away*