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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Friday, July 03, 2009

I Know Why Teachers Aren't Any Good

Okay. This hit me like a face card while holding a 5 & 6 in a game of blackjack.
Background setting #1 - I'm a teacher. I've taught for 15 years, and started in my early 30s. I was in business-related, self-employed fields prior to teaching.
Background setting #2 - I'm reading Cesar Millan's books on leading dogs. His mission of "I rehabilitate dogs: I train people" makes so much more sense to me after reading his work. Much of his information is more about people than dogs; in the context that unbalanced people screw up naturally balanced dogs. In other words, when you see a messed up dog, the human is likely the problem.
In one section, Millan says all "social animals" (humans included) want leadership, and when it is absent, followers fight for power to fill the void. Man, does that describe education's problems or what?
So, why aren't teachers any good? How does it relate? Here's my premise.
Teachers are good; at least they were good at one time. But they have been consistently and continually told they are not. They now believe the lie to the point that it is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Because of a true leadership vacuum in the educational arena "false leaders" have been fighting to take charge. They have done this through things we call Professional Development. People who were tired of the classroom, or sought "fame or fortune" or power in a para- school organization (or even within a school system) have made careers by telling teachers that what they are doing isn't working, so do this instead.
"This reading program works better than what you are doing." "Technology is the only thing that engages 21st century learners." "Math should be taught differently than in the past." "Teachers should be using RSS, PLNs, Twitter, blogs, wikis, etc."
Teachers have been Professionally Developed to believe they cannot do their job without trying something different every year. Schools have become breeding grounds for experiments for businesses, venders, college professors, or publishers to make quick turnkey money by convincing teachers that they are not capable of doing their job without constantly changing how they do their job.
So here's the problem, as I see it. Teachers never become "professional" because they never develop themselves with what they know could make them better at their art. They let others tell them what to do in their classroom.
They have been relegated to the calm-submissive dog instead of the calm-assertive leader they should be.
Sadly, school district leaders enforce the deterioration of teachers (perhaps unknowingly) by mandatory Professional Development, which is really Systemic Indoctrination.
Again, summarizing the Dog Whisperer himself, most people have the ability to become a pack leader but they have been told so many times throughout life that they are not good enough in other things, so they project that energy, and readily believe the lie.
Imagine, now, that teachers have been told they are not doing their job well enough; they need to use "data" to make decisions, yet they are not qualified to interpret the data. Besides, teachers shouldn't have to be bothered by the data, because they have lessons to plan. "Someone else will interpret the data for you and tell you how to teach."
Magically, the data shows that you should teach math this way... or reading this way... or use more technology... or... begin doing whatever you are not currently doing.
Change what you are doing is the bottom line - every time - without fail.
Teachers now lack the belief that they are capable of teaching and leading their own classrooms! But that's okay; perhaps even preferrable.
Why preferrable?
Because Professional Development will teach you how to do the new thing, and as a bonus, we'll give you Professional Learning Units to renew your teaching certificate.
Sounds great, until you begin to realize that you have not learned much of what will help YOU be a better teacher. You haven't chosen one thing that you know you needed in order to improve yourself. After years of the PD cycle, you believe you are unqualified, underqualified, or even inept at doing what you once loved to do -- teach children.
Then, as teachers near the middle to end of their thirty years, they figure there's no reason to fight it anymore. Just hang on, lay low, and get through each year. No need to get better; the "leaders" will tell us what we need.
Then we'll go into our classrooms, do our duty, and kids will still be kids; rejecting what adults seek to feed them. And because students feel the energy we project, they will seek to become the class "leader" because the one thing they have learned for sure is that their teachers will not know how to lead them.
Then teachers will get frustrated wondering why the "new" thing isn't causing the students to want to learn any better than the past methods.
The reason things aren't better is because teachers have given away their right to be a leader in favor of being told what they must do (treated like dogs). Students sense it and respond accordingly; by trying to usurp the authority teachers have relegated for the sake of receiving Professional Development: the kind of Professional Development that only perpetuates the cycle. This cycle has actually developed into a spiral downward into despair for many in our profession.
Some quit, others surrender, and others seek systemic change as ones crying in the wilderness, sadly believing that the government really wants education to change.
Phew, that's been brewing a long time. Thanks for staying with me.
 From R. Murry

Posted via email from rrmurry's posterous


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