I have been an educator for almost forty years. The first thirty years were spent as an English teacher in a predominately white student populated school district in a suburb. The last seven were spent as a technical support-trainer in a predominately minority student pop-ulated school district in another suburb. The districts bordered on one another but in all actuality they could have been a million miles apart. Even so, the students were essentially the same: some highly motivated, some motivated, some indifferent, and some just downright uncaring. The ratios were different.
As for the people I worked with, well they were just about the same. For the most part the support staff, teachers, and administrators were good, caring people who were primarily concerned about the education of the students, and some were highly motivated while some were just motivated Unfortunately there were some who were indifferent, and some just downright self-serving and uncaring. The time I’ve spent in education has jaded me to some extent but it has also made me a firm believer in the saying – “those who can – do; and those who can’t – teach.” As an educator I take the saying to be an accurate and positive statement, not a putdown of teachers. Teaching is an art form in itself, so those who can—do—teach! Somebody who can bring life to the words “the product of the means is equal to the product of the extremes” as did the Serge my freshman math teacher in high school is gifted even if he is not an Einstein. And those who see teachers as less than talented because they don’t—do, ought to think back and remember their Serge, that individual teacher who pushed their buttons and made them go for it. And believe me, there was at least one teacher like Serge for everybody.
This is not to say that all teachers are equally as talented. There are, as I have indicated, the less than gifted ones, the ones whose names I have forgotten from my past, or the ones I wish that I could forget. In both districts I’ve worked in, there are many in both camps and many in between. I was able to observe this in the latter district because I was often the proverbial “fly on the wall” in my position in tech support. Working on a computer repair while a class was in session allowed me to observe without being a threat, so what normally went on in the teacher’s class went on with me watching. Some of what went on was absolutely amazing. Read more on this on my On Education page.
Incidentally, I would also like to add a bit of a zinger to the—“those who can’t—teach” statement – “those who can’t teach – too often become administrators.” That’s the cynic in me speaking, the rebel who feels that more often than not, high level administrators in school districts do not have a clue about effective teaching and are generally “PR” people more than anything else. Although I have not done my homework on the subject, I really wonder how many actual “teaching” hours most administrators have had. Book knowledge and practical experience are quite different. Granted, experience can be an iffy proposition. I have known educators who have had twenty years experience with continual growth and I know those who had one year’s experience lived over twenty times. However, basing a district’s educational practices on what the book says or what the latest theory education is borrowing from other disciplines is not necessarily the best way to go. Perhaps the declining quality of education is indicative of that.
Much is said today about the quality of education or the lack there of. Test scores are down. Students are dropping out of school at alarming rates. The “educational divide” is alive and healthy, even in bordering suburban towns. Every day a new news article points out the inequities in education. Teachers are frustrated with the lack of parental concern and support. Teachers are concerned about too much parental involvement of the wrong kind and the lack of genuine parental support and concern. Administrators are more concerned about political correctness than what is educationally correct and sound, and have become “PR” agents for their districts equating their doing so to improvements in communications while the discontent within the district due to a lack of communication grows and is overwhelming. I was the webmaster for a district where the superintendent’s BLOG was nothing more than a tool to sell the district to the public. Once again, more on this on my On Education page.
My sister once accused me of being opinionated. I immediately thanked her remembering the cluttered vs. empty desk joke–you know–“If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a empty desk?” Opinions are important. Willingness to listen to other’s opinions and even to change your own is also important. Knowing the difference between serious change and “waffling” for personal gain is also important. I don’t waffle. Of course, I am not administrative or political material.