Tuesday, February 14, 2006

If we kept the good ones...

Like Miss Dennis, I called John Stossell to task a few posts ago. She revisits her fury again in yesterday's post, and compares him unfavorably to CNN's Anderson Cooper and the NYT's Michael Winerip. She includes a quote from the later, which I think relates to my last post:

"By far, the issue getting the most ink is the need to reduce the time it takes to dismiss bad teachers - a pet peeve of the mayor's. While this is clearly a problem, the far bigger problem is holding on to good teachers. Last year New York City had 3,567 "regular" teachers leave, the most in memory, 936 more than the year before, and 1,100 above the previous three-year average. These are not retirees or troubled teachers - they're certified teachers in good standing."


Winerip is right: the problem of getting rid of bad teachers gets far more coverage than does the problem of retaining good ones.

What no one I've read comes to terms with, though, is that getting rid of bad teachers is easy. The trick lies in recognizing them before they have tenure. You'll have a difficult time convincing me that a teacher can fake being "good" for the one or two or five or ten years it takes to achieve tenured status, and then suddenly flush those abilities down the nearest sewer.

A couple of examples, one from each extreme of my teaching career. There were many others in between:

First, my eighth-grade math teacher. There one year, gone the next. That's forty years ago (Ouch-who knew it would take turning so many calendar pages to finally hit my prime? Or have I?).

Second, a science teacher at the school I last taught at. There one year, gone the next (and not to another school, not with the evals she had). That was two years ago, so it's still just as easy.

So how in the world do we end up with bad teachers holding tenure, and thus protected by the easy-to-bash, easy-to-hate unions?

Part of it is irresponsible administrators, who, for whichever of myriad reasons, look the other way. Or human resources people who practice an inexact science (or art, or whatever it is), and inflict less-than-sure-choices on building admins who prefer not to second-guess their superiors.

But part of it is also the pressure to fill the vacancies created when good teachers leave. Look at the NYC numbers that Winerip cites: over 3500 "certified teachers in good standing" must be replaced. Why?

Some of them, I suppose, retired, as I did. But honestly? I retired two years earlier than I had originally planned. I got tired of the politics and the bureaucracy, got tired of the writing on the wall that said that no matter how good you are, you're going to fail in or around the year 2014 and it's going to be a slow, miserable slide until then, and so I juggled some accounts, rolled some into others, sold a house, and bought my way to a different life. But when so many analyses show that close to half of all teachers leave within the first five years, I don't believe the problem is the three percent or so who complete long careers and move on.

Part of it might well be psychological. Not everyone can handle administrators who make superficial observations (thank you, Fellow-ette).

I think NYC Educator also makes a valid point in his post about teacher pay: if we want the good ones, we have to pay them. That will remain difficult as long as we refuse to accept that some of the money to do that has to come out of our own pockets.

Some truly excellent teachers, having burned the candle at both ends (and the middle)for a few years, find they can no longer do it. That problem won't be solved with more money, but it might be alleviated with more time (which of course costs more money, but not as obviously as salary).

And Joanne Jacobs references the unwillingness of Millenials to tolerate busywork, which much of day-to-day educational paperwork is. Now don't waste too much time looking over your shoulders, but guess who the new young teachers are? If it's busywork you hand them, they'd rather do surveys on MySpace. You want attendance recorded two or three different places? Ummm... No. Unless you find a way to integrate it so they only have to do it once. Same with grades.

And please be careful about those staff-development "opportunities." Darren said it very concisely here:
I know what might help make me a better teacher. And it's probably not the same thing as the two teachers on either side of me need to help make them better teachers.



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2 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

Read the chapter "Why the worst get on top" in Hayek's Road To Serfdom.

Or just check out this Mises Daily Article:
http://www.mises.org/story/199

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article works very well with my child, hope you find it useful too.


forskolin adhd
forskolin adhd

Children with ADHD

There is a perplexing state of affairs in today's society, there lies a strong correlation between the affluence of a society and the amount of disease that is present. There is also another correlation that troubles many a people and that is with affluence comes disease at an Earlier age.

Working with children and the parents of these children I often get asked the question, 'Why are Children with ADHD on the increase?'

The answer as you shall find is one that is both interesting and challenging.

Children of today are really no more different from the children of yesterday in terms of genetic makeup. However, if you examine the issue more closely you will tend to find that many children today have been given labels. For example, 'Oh, those are children with ADHD' or 'Those are the children who can't sit still.' Or 'That is the kid that always gets into trouble.'

These labels are not only destructive but also become a self fulfilling prophecy as it is repeated adnauseum.

So as a 21st century parent or a parent with a child with ADHD or a parent with children with ADHD, what knowledge framework do you need to equip yourself with to ensure your children live out their true potential?

Here is a quick reference list for thinking about ADHD
� ADHD is a source of great frustration because it is misunderstood
� ADHD medications are a great short term time buying device and should be avoided long term
� The above point goes for any sort of drug consumption. Think about it for a minute. Unless you have a biochemical deficiency in your body like Type 1 diabetes where your body fails to produce enough insulin or any at all, why would you take an external drug? A body that is in balance is totally healthy. It is only when the body is out of balance that dis-ease symptoms start to creep up.
� ADHD is a biochemical imbalance of the mind and body.
� The Head of Psychiatry in Harvard states that drugs for ADHD simply mask the effects of ADHD. It does not cure ADHD. This is an important point because a cure implies never to have to take the medication. This means that once you start on medication you will have to be on it for the rest of your life i.e. you have medically acquired a dependency for a biochemical imbalance. That is like stuffing all your rubbish (problematic behaviors) into a closet (medication) where no one can see it. But if you continue to stuff more rubbish into that closet, one day you will not have enough space and need to do one of two things. You either empty the rubbish (the natural conclusion) or you get a bigger closet (i.e. change to stronger medication to control the symptoms). The choice is obvious but sometimes when you don't have the necessary tools to deal with ADHD you tend to think the bigger closet is the only option.
� ADHD children are super sensitive to the emotions around them. Often they pick up emotional cues from their parents without realizing. Many parents come home frustrated or annoyed from work, the child with ADHD picks this up and starts to 'cause trouble' by becoming restless. Parents frustration increase because they just want some peace and quiet. They get angry which in turn is picked up by the child who then intensifies their activity. Things get way out of hand and some sort of punishment is handed down to the child who has no idea what just happened. The cycle repeats itself every so often.
� Our brains are wired emotionally. Positive praise is interpreted as an analytical/thinking exercise. Negative criticism including scolding, name calling, physical punishment all go directly to the emotional brain of children with ADHD. This means in order to ensure you get your message across in the most optimal way, you need to learn how to communicate with your ADHD children the way they like to be communicated with.
� Every negative comment requires 16 positive comments to neutralize the emotion. Save yourself the frustration and agitation by practicing positive communication.

The list is by no means complete. In dealing with children with ADHD there are a certain set of behavioural principles to follow. I will detail these steps in the coming weeks. I'll also build on the list as you continue to learn about what appears to be a mystical disorder known as 'Children with ADHD'

6:44 PM  

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