Thursday, July 28, 2011

a rant

I was browsing Huffington Post and had to respond to an article... plsu, having not blogged in a while I felt like I needed to do something.

The four witnesses called before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce agreed educators have not come up with an ideal framework to evaluate teachers. They also expressed concern over whether teachers are being prepared for the classroom, and said the right people might not be going into education in the first place.

Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said half the people that graduate from an education program don't wind up getting teaching jobs.

"I fear that for too many of those individuals have gone into an education school because it may be the easiest program on a college campus to complete," Walsh said.

Okay where to begin? First, teachers are not being prepared for the classroom. I reflect back on my administrative credential/MA courses and most of it was just theory and regurgitation of someone else's research. Very little was application. You can be the most learned about learning and "suck" at teaching. But many forget this. My own husband had suggested, as I'm job hunting, to look for jobs outside education, such as HR or management since "you have an admin. degree ya know...". Yes but I know very little about it. I can tell you about choosing curriculum, or about contracts/collective bargaining things I've read. I can tell you about how I explored my personality type and evaluated great leaders. I can tell you that schools have categorical funds, or fire based upon seniority. But if you ask me to hire the best teacher for the job, or to write a grant, I can't. Don't ask me to calm an angry parent or discipline little Trevor. Don't even think I know how to balance a school budget. I mean, I'll try and do all that. But I never learned or practiced how. And my university even admits to this, that most of their courses are theory based and that practice-based learning is not a focus. As a teacher, I felt the same way. I could sound like I knew my stuff and well, I knew and know a lot but knowing isn't everything. It's how you show what you know. So no. Schools are not preparing teachers to teach.

Teachers in America are in the "bottom third" of their class, the "dummies". Other nations value their educators more so the career is more appealing, and they often pay more. You can get a science degree and go teach for $35,000 or go do...whatever science thing you like and make twice that...and be more respected. Which would you choose? In other countries, their math teachers in middle school majored in math and often worked in math before teaching. Our teachers need just a multiple subject credential which covers math skills up to about 4th or 5th grade. No wonder our country has horrid math skills. Oh so not only are teachers the "dummies" but think of how many hoops we must jump to get a credential, keep it, and keep a job! No wonder so many teachers, 50% I think, leave the profession in the first few years.

Which is part of why half the people getting teaching degrees don't end up with a job- they do some student teaching and realize a) they're not ready to teach b) you mean a kid can hit you, injure you, and you can do nothing but maybe say no no little Billy, but you still get a gold star so you don't feel left out c)you can likely get pink slipped and have to look for a job which lessens your chance of being hired d)hmm if you keep switching schools and district you will never really make enough to support a family and pay off student loans. MANY teachers are on food stamps, can you believe that?

And then...ok there are no friggin' jobs! When I got my first credential back in 03' I applied and applied and interviewed job for my first year. Okay I subbed and was able to live somewhere where I could just pay what little I had to go towards food and shelter but if not, I'd have been homeless or living with my parents. Then I got a job. That lasted a year due to declining enrollment and politics, not enough ADA money to pay for my position. Back to square one, subbing and tutoring for a year. Then I got another job but the district had to pink slip 5 teachers and ta da, one of those was me. Now my resume looked suspicious with all these little jobs, a victim of circumstances but still. "Why do you not stay anywhere more than a year?" Well it is called LIFO, Last In First Out. I have bad luck and well, our state is in, and has been in, financial crisis for quite some time so I get axed. Then I got a job that lasted 3 years whoopee! But due to financial crisis at the sate level, no one could afford me (even though I was only makign a measly $25,000) and so bye bye to my job.

I've applied and applied and no interviews. My job always goes to a "more qualified applicant". I have 3 teaching credentials, a Master's and 5 years experience not counting subbing/tutoring/summer school. I applied to one position, a VP, and over 200 people were fully qualified. Their reqs were 5 yrs+ teaching/admin experience, MA, admin credential, and a teaching credential. So imagine the fresh out of school teacher, no work experience, with one credential. She or he probably is competing with not 200 applicants but likely 1,000 or more per job.

And yeah a teaching degree is easy. I will admit. And there is the addage "Those who can't, teach". Perhaps that goes with the statistic of the bottom third becoming educators. And yeah I've known some incompetent teachers. But I've also known some that are like walking encyclopedias, and they have the art of teaching down to a science. But maybe we should make teaching programs more difficult. But given the job market, I highly doubt people are signing up for a teaching degree just because it is easy.

Witnesses told the committee there should be accountability for institutions where teachers are trained. The burden to retain teachers, they said, should not fall on school districts.

Oh. I had to be retrained. I was taught to differentiate, barely touch a textbook, use learning modalities and hands on activities. Egads. You may recall in my post (I think, anyways) that I was asked rather honestly, "where did you learn to teach?" insinuating I didn't learn to teach, because I couldn't follow a scripted curriculum. I kept "not teaching" and bringing in supplementals, hands on activities, other "not teaching" things. I was not taught to follow orders and forget to think or analyze. So yes. In our current climate of scripted curriculum and assessment-driven craziness, yeah, we need to retrain our teachers. Purposely employ the bottom third, the "idiots" who can be brainwashed easily into thinking frequent testing, and robotic curriculum, works.

Walsh said young teachers are often placed in low-performing schools, but because they lack experience, their students tend to not do as well.

Yes. True. Been there, done that. Becuase of tenure and collective bargaining, let's say teacher X is hired fresh out of college to work at what else, but Prison View Elementary, the lowest performing school in the district. Somehow, she survives the first two years by fraternizing with the union president and by blindly teaching the curriculum. Her tenure is announced and she requests a transfer to Muffy McFluffy's Magnet School in the district, their highest performing school. She is granted it and spends the rest of her career there.
One would think, hey, at Muffy McFluffy's there is Teacher Y who single-handely increased test scores by 100 points in one year, won teacher of the year twice, and has been nationally recognized for her curriculum and classroom management techniques; with 5 books authored by her. How 'bout we send her into the dredges of Prison View? But with things the way they are, only she could elect the transfer. The district couldn't transfer her. But let's also say Teacher Z works at Muffy McFluffy's. Teacher Z is that rare teacher that the media and public love, who lets the kids turn into hooligans, playing leap frog on the desks while Z checks his Facebook farm and cafe. Test scores from Z's class are making McFluffy's look bad. The district elects to send Z to Prison View. Yep. Schools can transfer the bad tenured staff to the bad schools, but the stellar staff cannot go and help transform the bad school unless they choose to. And after 30 years of working with McFluffy's finest, who would want to spend their last years teaching at Prison View?

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