Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On Good and Bad Teachers

As the "put a quality teacher in every pot" debate rages, some more thoughts:

Many good teachers - if not more - leave the system or are promoted out of the classroom each year. But poor teachers leave too, an awful lot of them becoming supervisors. The replacements will fall into the same bell curve, especially first year teachers. So focusing all the reforms on removing them from the system is a losing game and the right wing and Dems 08 and Ed Sector types are using the quality teacher issue as a diversion.

On good teachers, we are not saying they are not important - but the witch hunts and the use of barely trained newbies does nothing to improve the overall teaching core while we think lower class sizes and some kind of internship for newbies would lift all boats.

Teachers should take a good look at their school and all the schools they have been in and make a list: great, good, average, poor, horrible and I just can't tell.

When it comes to bad teachers, In fact fellow teachers don't really know all that much. You know who does? The kids and their parents probably have the best feel for a good teacher than anyone else.

Think back to the teachers you had and rate as many as you can remember on a scale from 1-5 in terms of overall quality. Would you give the highest ratings to the teachers of classes where you scored very high on regents? Maybe. If you do well in school, you feel better about the teacher.

But are there other factors?

Thinking of yourself as a student might give a much better insight into quality teaching than viewing it as a colleague. Or a supervisor. A supervisor's list of who are good and bad teachers might look very different.

If you are a parent, think about the teachers your children had and rate them? Based on what? How happy your child was? Grades? How they related to you?

We might get the better insights into teachers from students and parents than almost any other method. Yet they are totally left out of the equation.


Anonymous said...

I agree that personal view greatly affects one's view of teacher quality. I know I’m guilty of this. I consider myself to be a fairly creative person. I feel I’m able to look at a prefabricated scripted lesson plan from one of these programs principals buy and break it down and make it more hands on, interesting, effective, you name it. Teachers who can do that and are willing to go out on the limb so to speak and not just follow the script I consider to be better teachers. On the other hand some of these same teachers are not as effective in classroom management. My unscientific observations have been, that the “buy the script” teachers have better behaved classes. What this all means I don't know exactly. I was lucky enough to open a new school. We didn't have a scripted program our first year. Each grade would meet each week and with not much more than a pacing calendar figure out what we were going to teach the next week. In time we got better at it and were actually able to plan a few weeks out. Although the topics were the same in each classroom every teacher brought their own "flavor" to the lesson. My kids were always up, out of their seats measuring things, working in pairs or groups. It was just the way I liked to do things. If Everyday Math said a particular lesson was whole group. I would break it down and do it small group. Now I walk around my school and in most rooms you see the same exact lesson, being taught the same exact scripted way. It's sad in my opinion. The scripted lessons take all the thinking and creativity out of teaching and the teacher. There are still small pockets of creativity left. Those of us who opened up the school and had to swim or drown see the scripted lessons as guides that help us with pacing, while the new teachers (many first or second year) see them as gospel that must be followed. It doesn't help in my opinion that administrators applaud how well they can read a script every time they are observed.


ed notes online said...

In my initial years in my 2nd school after a few years in myfirst school where I was considered one of the better teachers, I found myself viewed at a lower level (this school had older more experienced teachers with good management) because I was trying some new ideas in reaching kids which led to a noisier environment. I was also much more relaxed with kids than my colleagues. Over time I conformed a bit because it hurt to not be viewed as a good teacher and after 3 years there established a rep. I ended up spending 27 years there but because of the environment never pushed myself in new directions as I might have in a more experimental school. In those years I heard of the stuff Debbie Meier was doing and probably should have sought her out.

Recently, though, I received an email from a former 4th grade student from 1981 (who went on to Stuyvesant) and said some wonderful things about my teaching as being so different and influential in her life. To me that is the best validation a teacher can have when a former student with children of her own can say that.