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Why are teachers considered the sole cause of problems in American schools?It seems...

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:45 AM via web

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Why are teachers considered the sole cause of problems in American schools?

It seems that whenever a politician or other entity criticizes lack of performance in American schools, teachers are always the subject of the discussion, specifically, how to get rid of bad ones.  No one ever seems to mention the people who are hiring these teachers.  I would contend that if we have so many teachers that need to go, then why doesn't anyone ever look at the people who are carrying out the recruiting and hiring practices?  Teachers need strong administrators behind them if they are to reach their potential effectiveness, but in my experience, strong administrators are the exception rather than the rule.  Yet they seem to be getting a free pass when the debate turns to how to improve our schools--but they're supposed to be in charge. 

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 11, 2012 at 2:20 PM (Answer #5)

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I don't know why we assume that schools are declining. Schools of fifty years ago had much lower standards, and actually served smaller populations. Children with learning disabilities were stigmatized and pushed out of regular classrooms. We have higher expectations of our schools now, and we don't do enough to help them reform to meet these expectations. But this is not exactly germane to the orignial topic. I agree that administrators are a major problem in many school districts. This is what gets left out in the debate over teachers' unions, tenure, and school reform in general. The public is left to assume that if administrators were allowed to deal harshly with ineffective teachers, then everything would be better. We do not stop to consider that many administrators aren't very good at their jobs, and are as motivated by politics as anything else. 

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted June 12, 2012 at 2:06 AM (Answer #10)

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What bothers me is not the idea that teachers should be held accountable for their work, but that no one seems to find it relevant that a teacher was placed in his or her position by a building principal, who was hired by a higher level administrator.  How is it that when a school is not performing well or someone decides that American education needs improvement, the problem is always the teacher?  I'm not saying it is never the teacher; what I am trying to say is best articulated in Post #9.  The teacher didn't just waltz in off the street and begin committing pedagogical malpractice--he or she was deemed by someone to be the best fit for the position.  So who is this person and what qualifications does he or she have that make him or her successful at recruiting and hiring talented teachers?  In many cases, the person doing the hiring was a teacher for a few years, and doesn't have a sound understanding of instructional practices or classroom management--yet this person is deciding who might be a quality instructor?  I have worked for or known many administrators who appear to be afraid of kids and are downright terrified of parents.  How can this type of passive administrator possibly lead a school to improvement and high achievement?  They might be good at scheduling fire drills and sending out reminder emails, it's true, but should they be the ones in charge?  Why not just put the kids in charge?  Actually, I guess they more or less do. 

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted June 14, 2012 at 6:18 PM (Answer #13)

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I would also argue that if there really are such a large number of bad teachers we should look to the schools and training programs that are putting out so many bad teachers.  We should also question the state guidelines and licensed practices that allow so many bad teachers to slip into our schools.  It cannot fall only on the heads of the teachers.  Now I will admit that I have certainly met some bad teachers, but I cannot hold them solely responsible.

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cgrant2 | High School Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:55 PM (Answer #16)

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I think the reason why teachers are held responsible is because of how teachers are viewed by society and because they are the one's who spend the most time with the children. The teaching profession is dominated by women and seen as an low end profession. I remember when I told my parents (non-teachers) I wanted to be an teacher they instantly told me I am very going to make any money. People who get paid more money in their profession are appreciated more. On the other hand, teachers are ones who have most control over a child's education because they are working with the students themselves. Teachers develop the curriculum and administer the exams. They are the controllers of the information. This not to say there are not external forces (such as administors) that opperating. These forces have a lot to do with how children are educated in the classroom. For the most part, teachers do the best they can to make their students learn. This is the job of a teacher. 

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janetlong | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted July 26, 2012 at 10:29 PM (Answer #19)

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I've never tried to determine if someone was likely to be a good teacher by interviewing them, so I don't know for sure.  But it just seems to me that it must be horribly difficult to know who's going to be any good.  When we're talking about teachers right out of ed school, there's no real track record and the skills needed to do well in an interview don't have much connection to those needed for teaching.  So I guess I'm inclined to give administrators a break on that one.

Is there still such a thing as student teaching? I should think a new teacher with a strong ref and demonstrable scores as a student teacher would be a valuable bit of information. I would recommend a sneaky test for all applicants. Leave them sitting in a waiting area full of office TAs and preferably some miscreants sent up to the office, and see how they interact with the kids. If they shrink away and avoid contact, I would call that a real bad sign.

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janetlong | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted July 26, 2012 at 11:55 PM (Answer #22)

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  1. Constant disciplinary problems by students who absolutely refuse to adhere to expected classroom behavior.
  2. Students who come to school each day with the primary focus being on socializing and not education.
  3. Parents who blame the teacher for their children's scholastic deficiencies instead of themselves for not taking a greater interest in their kids' educational upbringing.

  I agree about these three items and my contention is that to some extent, weak administrators are at least part of the problem in many schools because they refuse to carry out discipline for fear of dealing with parents, and they will not support their teachers against hostile parents.  When a teacher sends a student to the office and said student is back in twenty minutes,there are going to be more discipline problems, not less.  Similarly, when parents are allowed to bully teachers without administrative support, teachers begin to overlook problem behaviors and/or give everyone A's to avoid being attacked.  This certainly isn't helping anything, but it happens all the time.  I believe that teacher burnout is not really burnout, but demoralization from unfavorable, even hostile working conditions

From experience, my kids have had teachers that doled out A's to all warm bodies. It wasn't, however, because they were being attacked. It was because they were out of their depth in the classroom and wouldn't pass muster if they gave the kids grades that reflected how little they had actually been taught. If a child receives an A in a subject and scores below basic on a standardized test--it's not discipline issues; it's the teacher. If a handful of problem kids can create general disorder throughout a classroom, the teacher isn't necessarily a bad teacher but there is a problem that, sorry, is up to the teacher to find a solution to. If a teacher says "I can't teach under these conditions!" Well. Is that teacher going to go out of his way, knock himself out, and figure out what he needs to do to overcome the disadvantages these kids bring into his classroom? If not, as a parent, I would rather see that teacher removed and somebody else given a shot at it. Harsh as it sounds, if a teacher really can't teach--whatever the reasons, wherever the blame belongs--then it is time to move on.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted August 7, 2012 at 4:22 PM (Answer #25)

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Unfortunately, there are many talented and dedicated educators who are "moving on" because they "can't teach" and the reason they can't teach is often because there is no one supporting them when problems erupt.  I wish it was as simple as kids oversocializing, but it is not.  The types of behaviors coming into public school classrooms are sometimes far more serious than someone furtively texting in a corner, and there are more than a few wonderful teachers who have moved on of their own accord because when they needed someone in their corner, there was no one there.  Kids are not stupid; they figure out very quickly what they can and can't get away with, and once a situation has occurred where the teacher's authority was undermined by the administrators--and it happens all the time--word gets around and even the best, most experienced teachers may have trouble managing the class because  "he/she can't do anything to me".   Why wouldn't a kid think that?  I would have.  I also think we should be less concerned about what's "normal" misbehavior and more concerned about making our schools the best they can be. 

My point is simply this:  I have been fortunate to work in a couple of very, very good schools, and a couple that were, shall we say, less than impressive.  The ones with high achieving students, high test scores, and a culture of excellence were the ones with strong administrators who had high expectations of teachers AND students.  Strong administrators hire people who know what they're doing, give them what they need to do their jobs, and get out of the way unless the teacher needs something--including support when it is needed.  Strong administrators care enough about the students to hold them accountable for their achievement and behavior.  

Weak administrators make it difficult for even the best teachers to accomplish what needs to be done. Their buildings lack accountability for anyone; they are reactive, rather than proactive, and their primary agenda is often keeping everyone quiet and happy so a) no one will notice how incompetent they are, and b) maybe they can advance in the system to a higher level position.  This doesn't mean they aren't very nice people, but it does mean that they are not invested in the long-term success of their school. 

I simply believe that everyone in a school should be held accountable for performance, and I'm not sure why this should seem so revolutionary.  I suppose, as stated above, it's just easier to blame the teacher as a convenient scapegoat rather than try to wrestle with issues that tend to be very complicated. 

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etotheeyepi | Student , Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted August 8, 2012 at 8:21 PM (Answer #26)

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Seems to me that all providers of goods or service have imperfect managers, employees, and customers. 

With that in mind, schools are no different than any other organizations.

Schools differ in the relationship of providers to customers.  Grocery stores, home contractors, clothing manufacturers, and universities decide who to serve and who not to serve. Their customers decide who to patronize and who not to patronize.

The key to getting maximum quality in schooling is to allow the students or parents to decide which school is a proper school and which school is not a proper school just like they decide about food, housing, clothing, and univeristy education.

 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 11, 2012 at 1:03 PM (Answer #2)

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I've never tried to determine if someone was likely to be a good teacher by interviewing them, so I don't know for sure.  But it just seems to me that it must be horribly difficult to know who's going to be any good.  When we're talking about teachers right out of ed school, there's no real track record and the skills needed to do well in an interview don't have much connection to those needed for teaching.  So I guess I'm inclined to give administrators a break on that one.

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mwalter822 | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted June 11, 2012 at 1:04 PM (Answer #3)

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I look at two things when I think about what is causing problems in American schools.

  1. The change in student behavior in American schools over the past several decades has been significant. Schools have not developed policies that effectively help teachers maintain control in the classroom. Quite a bit of instructional time is lost due to inappropriate student behavior (class disruptions, socializing, sleeping, etc).
  2. Technologically, schools are so far behind the students they serve that students are very easily bored in class. Most of the kids are fluent on computers, smart phones, video game systems and such, but we're still trying to teach them with pen, paper, and dry erase boards.

 

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted June 11, 2012 at 1:58 PM (Answer #4)

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There are several problems with American schools.  One problem is that the schools are run by politicians and government officials.  While these are strong leaders, they know little of what goes into running a classroom.  Often, the decisions they make are things that look great on paper but don't work in realty. No Child Left Behind is a great example of this.  Too many times our policies meant to improve schools actually just bind teachers hands and prevent them from really doing a good job.  Then, those same politicians turn around and blame the teachers instead of the policies.  

Another problem is the culture.  Many students don't see the importance of an education.  They think they will get rich quick in the entertainment industry or other areas.  Some other countries do not educate all of their population.  Students must test into a program and they must earn the right to attend school.  While I agree that everyone deserves an education, we do not create a culture that places enough value on that education.  We live in the world where students want information instantly and don't know how to work hard towards a goal.  Many students have grown up in a culture where teachers are blamed for a failing grade rather than the child that earned it.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:21 PM (Answer #6)

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  1. Constant disciplinary problems by students who absolutely refuse to adhere to expected classroom behavior.
  2. Students who come to school each day with the primary focus being on socializing and not education.
  3. Parents who blame the teacher for their children's scholastic deficiencies instead of themselves for not taking a greater interest in their kids' educational upbringing.
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speamerfam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted June 11, 2012 at 4:27 PM (Answer #7)

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I am not anti-union, by any means.  However, administrators often have their hands tied by union contracts, which makes it difficult to get rid of bad teachers, supposing we can figure out who the bad teachers are. 

Other factors that come to mind are the recent trend toward vouchers and charter schools and the continuing white flight of America to suburbs and private education, all of which leave regular public schools, particularly urban schools, with the most vulnerable of students, less money, less parental involvement because the parents are so vulnerable, too, and often, the least experienced of teachers. 

The increasing politicalization of education has not helped our educational system in any way, either.  We now have school districts where some variation of creationism must be offered as an alternative theory to evolution, where textbooks are written to reflect the opinions of people who seek to further disenfranchise disenfranchised minority groups, and of course, what feels like the death knell of American education, No Child Left Behind. 

It is also my understanding that other countries provide longer school years, longer school days, and a respect for teachers that we lack.  

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:40 PM (Answer #8)

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As a teacher, I have to disagree that "it is the teachers." While not all teachers should be teachers, as not all politicians should be politicians and not all doctors should be doctors, one cannot place sole responsibility on the teachers.

Our world is different than it has been in the past. Some students simply do not understand the importance of education. Other students have lost respect for teachers and administration. Also, some schools have become very passive when it comes to doling out punishment for things which would have deemed immediate expulsion in the past. Teachers are no longer just teachers. They must be teachers, parents, counselors, parole officers, policemen/women, and psychoanalysts (just to name a few).

Now, I am not saying that it is only the students. There are problems in schools with students, teachers, administration, and school boards.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:00 PM (Answer #9)

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Administrators should bear their share of the responsibility for the success and failure of the schools where they work.

If that is the crux of the issue in this thread, I think I can say I completely agree with the side that would suggest blame should not go only to teachers but to administrators as well. 

This does not mean that administrators' jobs are easy. Their hands may be tied, some of their choices may be impossible, but this is true for teachers as well. 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 12, 2012 at 4:05 AM (Answer #11)

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The problem in Education is that the real problems are never addressed. Post #6 has succinctly identified the problems.  But, what is done about these problems? Almost nothing. Instead, the teachers become the scapegoats because they have not modified the lessons appropriately, they have not made the proper "accommodations" for certain individual learners who have all sorts of problems, etc. etc.

Like every other bureaucracy in America, Education is political, and, therefore it will not appropriately solve its problems.  In the 1960s, America was first among great nations in education; now, it is something like 24th among 30.  So, "it's" the teachers?  Is this multiple choice, Ma'am?

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted June 13, 2012 at 1:49 AM (Answer #12)

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  1. Constant disciplinary problems by students who absolutely refuse to adhere to expected classroom behavior.
  2. Students who come to school each day with the primary focus being on socializing and not education.
  3. Parents who blame the teacher for their children's scholastic deficiencies instead of themselves for not taking a greater interest in their kids' educational upbringing.

  I agree about these three items and my contention is that to some extent, weak administrators are at least part of the problem in many schools because they refuse to carry out discipline for fear of dealing with parents, and they will not support their teachers against hostile parents.  When a teacher sends a student to the office and said student is back in twenty minutes,there are going to be more discipline problems, not less.  Similarly, when parents are allowed to bully teachers without administrative support, teachers begin to overlook problem behaviors and/or give everyone A's to avoid being attacked.  This certainly isn't helping anything, but it happens all the time.  I believe that teacher burnout is not really burnout, but demoralization from unfavorable, even hostile working conditions

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adina1188 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted June 28, 2012 at 7:36 PM (Answer #14)

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Today's problems are a combination of so many things. The first I would say is the children. Kids can be great but let's face it, kids today feel superior because of all their supposed knowledge. They believe they are smarter than their teachers because they know more but what their knowledge really consists of is who deals what, the many ways of scoring with members of either gender, how to work the latest app, and the problems of reality TV stars. With all that important information in their heads why should they listen to the "old" fogy in front of the classroom who is talking about Shakespeare or the theory of relativity. I may date myself with this but there is NO respect for educators.

Another problem is the administration. All it takes is for an outraged parent to contact the media to report that fifteen year old Johnny was suspended for a day due to _________ for the principal to fold like a cheap tent.

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reiton | Middle School Teacher | eNoter

Posted July 10, 2012 at 1:42 AM (Answer #15)

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Whenever I attend a seminar regarding educational reform, there is almost never one syllable mentioned about what students, themselves, need to do to attain an acceptable level of education.  Reform almost always and completely focuses on the teacher first, his or her effectiveness or ineffectiveness, and then moves on to go over a theoretical plan for the teacher to fix the students.  One thing hasn't changed since I entered education as a 5-year-old, some students who go through the same educational process (schools, teachers, administrators, ups, downs, life events, etc.) go on to be successful and other students do not.   I would like to see a study done on students who finished school with a defined level of success.  My theory says they will all have one thing in common.  They accepted the challenge and made it happen.  They were personally committed to their own education and didn't rely on others to make it happen for them.  Of course, we as educators, administrators, and school districts must be highly effective and do our part well or student success will decline, but if we do not get our children personally committed to their own educations, we will continue to have more and more students graduating from high school and now college lacking the skills they need to take care of themselves and to contribute positively to our society.  

 

 

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janetlong | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted July 26, 2012 at 10:05 PM (Answer #17)

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Golly, I wish there were a corresponding thread in which administrators poured out their frustrations.

I'm not a teacher or an admin, but I am a parent who has worked closely with both. I'll just say, it's all ghastly, but the danger is that where "failure" is the word of the day, defunding follows (sort of like bleeding in shark infested waters). It's important to get a little perspective, draw useful conclusions, and get rid of those rose colored glasses. Public education has always been a product of the same factors at work today. Read old stuff--Up the Down Staircase, watch old movies (The 400 Blows)--watch an Our Gang/Little Rascals episode in which the schoolteacher tries to drum some knowledge into those kids' heads. Students have always come to school hungry or with bad attitudes or with a conviction that you are wasting their time or with an inclination to be the center of attention. There have always been students with natural talents and students who work hard to please and students with personal ambitions and students with really scarey tiger moms/dads at home. There have always been kids with parents who can't relate to the whole school/college thing for any number of real and legitimate reasons, who either passively or actively discourage their children from spending too much energy in that direction. The only thing missing now are the beatings, and they never did any good except to let the teacher blow off some steam.

Inadequate admins? Please. Visit the private sector sometime. Lousy bosses are everywhere. It isn't enough to know your stuff. It isn't enough to be liked and respected by your staff. It certainly isn't enough to be rough and gruff and mean and no help at all. Administration is a totally different ball game from teaching; it requires an additional skills set that includes the courage to discipline poor performance in a timely way and to terminate employment when the record of poor performance reaches a predetermined threshhold. That is just about the hardest thing anybody in any profession must do. It is a horrible, gut churning, doubt filled, sleep depriving CHOICE. It doesn't help that firing a teacher is likely to lead to union action or a lawsuit--that just makes making excuses to keep an underperforming teacher around that much easier. On the other side, admins need to make sure their teachers are getting the resources and professional development they need--also not as easy as it sounds. Some teachers get just as squirmy as their students when asked for "buy in" or extra effort, and as you know, the few can make a lot of problems for the many. And then there is that funding issue.

So why do teachers get all the blame? Well, to him whom much is given, much is required. When a child is given into your care, whether you are a babysitter or a surgeon or a teacher, boy, you had better be good. If a kid gets into trouble--why did you allow things to get out of control in the first place? If a kid is overloaded--why did you assign so much? If a kid isn't getting as much homework as the private school kid down the street--why aren't you giving enough? Geez, folks. For all that money you're raking in, you are supposed to be all things to all students.

And now I will say something a lot of you are really going to hate. Not all teachers are created equal, and a great teacher is better for a class of students than a less than great teacher. I am a union supporter, and recognize the importance of teachers having union protection--teachers are extremely vulnerable to unfair treatment for all the obvious reasons. But when a notably talented teacher is let go in deference to the seniority of a problem teacher, or a teacher with an exceptional performance record is bumped from a position in favor of a more senior but less talented colleague--that kind of thing is all about job security, but it is not in the interest of the students. As a parent, your career is not my problem. I am only concerned with the quality of my kid's education, and I want the best. Decisions like that DO make teachers look like the bad guy. And the admins look like wimps, and the unions look like totalitarian regimes, and the students look like victims, and the schools look like crumbling relics of the Great Society.

 

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janetlong | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted July 26, 2012 at 10:20 PM (Answer #18)

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I think the reason why teachers are held responsible is because of how teachers are viewed by society and because they are the one's who spend the most time with the children. The teaching profession is dominated by women and seen as an low end profession. I remember when I told my parents (non-teachers) I wanted to be an teacher they instantly told me I am very going to make any money. People who get paid more money in their profession are appreciated more. On the other hand, teachers are ones who have most control over a child's education because they are working with the students themselves. Teachers develop the curriculum and administer the exams. They are the controllers of the information. This not to say there are not external forces (such as administors) that opperating. These forces have a lot to do with how children are educated in the classroom. For the most part, teachers do the best they can to make their students learn. This is the job of a teacher. 

I get the part about people not respecting professions that don't make a lot of money, but that kind of snobbery tends to be most prevalent among people who make a lot of money. That isn't most of us. Think back to when you were a kid. How did you really react to your teachers? Did you resent them a little, especially the ones who taught subjects that didn't excite you? Were you pretty perceptive of their faults? Did you ever fall asleep in class or lose track of the lecture? Trust me, if you tried teaching in an Armani suit, your students would still behave like normal students--they would just be wondering what the deal was with the suit. The best way to gain parents' respect is to do a good job educating their children.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted July 26, 2012 at 11:04 PM (Answer #20)

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Having worked in the private sector, I can say this: my manager was expected to recruit and hire quality employees, and he was held accountable for the performance of our branch; when our branch wasn't performing, he was the first person to hear about it.  He was at the top of the chain of command, he was expected to produce results, and he was expected to lead his employees in the direction to get those results.  Now, if as manager, he determined that we were not meeting our performance standards, he was responsible for dealing with that situation as well.  A manager with high turnover, whether it was due to an employee leaving of his own volition, or getting terminated, tended to raise a red flag with the home office, because effective recruiting and hiring was an important part of his responsibilities.

My point is this:  at no time when a branch wasn't doing well did a higher level executive call our office, bypassing the manager completely to chastise the account executives; yet this is what happens in education all the time.  There is a tendency to look at the principal as a figurehead who bears no real responsibility for anything taking place in his or her building.  This just does not make sense.  And as a parent myself, I can tell you one thing parents should be very wary of:  many of the so-called "best" teachers are the ones who give every student A's.  No one ever questions anything they are doing, because when grade reports come out, everyone is doing wonderfully.  The parents are happy because they assume their child is getting a good education and administrators are happy because they don't have to spend time dealing with unhappy parents.  Some teachers do this because they wish to be popular, and some do this because they have been given de facto permission to do so.  They know that no one will question them and it is safer to operate this way than to have a conflict with a parent that may result in them being "thrown under the bus" by the administrator.  Behavior problems are overlooked to avoid parental conflict, and teaching with any sort of rigor becomes a thing of the past.  And the reason this goes on often boils down to one thing:  weak administrators who do not wish to have the boat rocked, either because they cannot or do not want to deal with conflict.

One problem we face, I think, is that people assume they know all about teaching because they were students once.  The same people who would never tell their doctor or family attorney how to do their job assume because they sat in a classroom once that they understand everything that is going on in the classroom today.  I used to be one of these people; when I left the corporate world to teach school, I thought I had all of the answers. I was going to be the one to show all the old fuddy-duddy's how it was really done.   It did not take me long in a real classroom to figure out that it is a much more complicated business than it appears to be to outsiders; in fact, I would argue that good teaching is more of an art than a science.  You either get it, and get kids, or you don't.  I realize now that one of the old fogeys I was so sure had permanently damaged my sense of self was possibly the best teacher I ever had; I also realize now that the one I liked best, that everyone liked best, including parents, was a great guy and a completely worthless instructor.

We all know there are weak leaders in every sector, but I would argue that in the case of educating children, we can't afford to leave our schools in the hands of people who don't have a clue what they are doing, in terms of instruction, of course, but also, and maybe more importantly, in terms of safety.  Do you want someone in charge of your child's school who is afraid to suspend the kid who brought a knife because the knife-wielding youngster's parents are bullies?  What about the principal who won't suspend the kid that threatened to kill his entire P.E. class because when she talked to the kid, the kid said he didn't really mean anything by it.  How about the administrator who is too afraid to tell a parent they can't visit a classroom, so the parent goes to "observe" and tries to assault the teacher?  Or, the administrator who refuses to lock the school's doors despite district policy because "a parent might get mad".  These are real examples that happened in "nice" suburban schools in the city where I live. 

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janetlong | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted July 26, 2012 at 11:15 PM (Answer #21)

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  1. Constant disciplinary problems by students who absolutely refuse to adhere to expected classroom behavior.
  2. Students who come to school each day with the primary focus being on socializing and not education.
  3. Parents who blame the teacher for their children's scholastic deficiencies instead of themselves for not taking a greater interest in their kids' educational upbringing.

Granted. BUT. Some students behave well in one class and learn, then fall apart in another class and not learn. Yes, kids do come to school to socialize. That's normal human behavior, isn't it? Learning, however, is a form of socializing. If your family sits down to dinner and Muffy and Buffy start shooting peas at each other, you say "Quit playing with your food and tell me why Fido is wearing braids." You don't say, "Eat your peas; we're not here to socialize." Teaching is capturing a child's drive to speak and giggle and be told interesting things. They will naturally seek all that from their friends, but when a teacher hears what a student has to say, laughs with student, and shares his/her enthusiasm for a subject then education becomes a meaningful part of the child's social life.

I once walked into a ninth grade english classroom. Teens slumping all over the place, flirting, picking at their nails. Truly picturesque. The teacher was reading aloud, pausing every so often to ask for student input. Was he getting it? Yeah, he was. They LOVED him. They were not only paying attention but thinking about the story, trying to figure out what the deal was with the orangatan and the murders. He was excited about what he had to share with them and ALSO excited to hear what they were thinking. You can tell a kid that it is important to read Poe stories. But it isn't, if the the story just clinks around in isolation for a day or two and then evaporates forever. But where there is a point of contact, a breaking of bread together, learning happens.

Conversely, even a demanding honors cohort will give up and pull out their iphones if the teacher is incompetent. Seen that too.

My 15 year old daughter worked for a week this summer as a science camp counselor. She picked out one especially well behaved little girl and said, "If they were all like this one, this job would be easy."

 

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mshurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 7, 2012 at 6:15 AM (Answer #23)

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Back to the original question: "Why are teachers considered the sole cause of problems in American schools?" The reason, I think, is that the general public is told, over and over, that we are. Case in point. A few months ago I watched a segment of "Morning Joe" that was being broadcast from New Jersey. It was a segment focusing on education. The discussion panel, as I recall, consisted of Joe, Mika, Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan, Gov. Chris Christie, and a woman whom Christie had hired away from New York City to be a principal (or maybe a superintendent). Her job was to turn around a failing school in New Jersey.

The discussion lasted 15-20 minutes, and most of it focused on improving teacher performance, ineffective teachers,  improving education by staffing schools with better teachers, etc. At no point did anyone in the discussion mention principals, superintendents, school boards, state departments of education, the U.S. Department of Education, politicians, parents, or students. Problems with schools were equated with problems with teachers.

We've all heard the insistent national drumbeat tying poor student performance only to inadequate instruction. I've wondered why this is, just as it was on the "Morning Joe" segment. It seems to be politically correct in the current national environment to attack public school teachers as never before, and it comes from numerous quarters. Why?

History shows that particular groups in society have been scapegoated as a means to divert public attention from other areas of concern: "It's all their fault." I suppose if the public is looking at teachers as the source of the problems in American education, that lets everybody else off the accountability hook. The result, of course, is that problems aren't solved, an honorable profession is demonized, dedicated teachers leave the ranks every year, and many fine young men and women who would have made great teachers won't even consider declaring education as a major. 

 

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angel-girl | Student , Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted August 7, 2012 at 2:08 PM (Answer #24)

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The problem is some teachers are a bad influence to students. As there are many many many teachers, it is very difficult for the government to control what each teacher is doing!

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