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    ‘I would love to teach but…’

    ‘I would love to teach but…’

    ‘I would love to teach but…’

    BY VALERIE STRAUSS December 31, 2013 at 9:45 am

    I recently published a post with various answers to the question: How hard is teaching? Here is one response I received by e-mail from a veteran seventh-grade language arts teacher in Frederick, Maryland, who asked not to be identified because she fears retaliation at her school. In this piece she describes students who don’t want to work, parents who want their children to have high grades no matter what, mindless curriculum and school reformers who insist on trying to quantify things that can’t be measured.

    Here is her e-mail:

    It is with a heavy, frustrated heart that I announce the end of my personal career in education, disappointed and resigned because I believe in learning. I was brought up to believe that education meant exploring new things, experimenting, and broadening horizons. This involved a great deal of messing up. As part of the experimentation that is growing up, I would try something, and I would either succeed or fail. I didn’t always get a chance to fix my mistakes, to go back in time and erase my failures, but instead I learned what not to do the next time. Failing grades stood, lumpy pieces of pottery graced the mantle, broken bones got casts. As a result of my education, I not only learned information, I learned to think through my ideas, to try my best every single time; I learned effort. I’d like to say that in some idealistic moment of nostalgia and pride, I decided to become a teacher, but the truth is that I never thought I would do anything else. I come from a long line of teachers and I loved school from day one.

    To pursue this calling, I worked hard to earn the title of “classroom teacher,” but I became quickly disillusioned when my title of teacher did not in any way reflect my actual job. I realized that I am not permitted to really teach students anything. When I was in middle school, I studied Shakespeare, Chaucer, Poe, Twain, O. Henry, the founding fathers, if you will, of modern literary culture. Now, I was called to drag them through shallow activities that measured meaningless but “measurable” objectives.

    Forced to abandon my hopes of imparting the same wisdom I had gained through my experiences and education, I resigned myself to the superficial curriculum that encouraged mindless conformity. I decided that if I was going to teach this nonsense, I was at least going to teach it well. I set my expectations high, I kept my classroom structured, I tutored students, I provided extra practice, and I tried to make class fun. At this point, I was feeling alright with myself. I quickly rose through the ranks of “favorite teacher,” kept open communication channels with parents, and had many students with solid A’s.

    It was about this time that I was called down to the principal’s office with a terse e-mail that read only, “I need to speak with you.” Clueless, I took down my grade sheets, communication logs, lesson plans, and sat down as an adult still summoned down to the principal’s office. “I need to talk to you about these students.” She handed me a list of about 10 students, all of whom had D’s or F’s. At the time, I only had about 120 students, so I was relatively on par with a standard bell curve. As she brought up each one, I walked her through my grade sheets that showed not low scores but a failure to turn in work—a lack of responsibility. I showed her my tutoring logs, my letters to parents, only to be interrogated further. Eventually, the meeting came down to two quotes that I will forever remember as the defining slogans for public education:

    “They are not allowed to fail.”

    “If they have D’s or F’s, there is something that you are not doing for them.”

    What am I not doing for them? I suppose I was not giving them the answers, I was not physically picking up their hands to write for them, I was not following them home each night to make sure they did their work on time, I was not excusing their lack of discipline, I was not going back in time and raising them from birth, but I could do none of these things. I was called down to the principal’s office many more times before I was broken, before I ended up assigning stupid assignments for large amounts of credit, ones I knew I could get students to do. Even then, I still had students failing, purely through their own refusal to put any sort of effort into anything, and I had lowered the bar so much that it took hardly anything to pass. According to the rubrics set forth by the county, if they wrote a single word on their paper, related or not to the assignment, I had to give them a 48 percent. Yet, students chose to do nothing. Why? Because we are forced to pass them. “They are not allowed to fail,” remember? Teachers are held to impossible standards, and students are accountable for hardly any part of their own education and are incapable of failing. I learned quickly that if I graded students accurately on their poor performance, then I have failed, not them. The attention is turned on me, the teacher, who is criticized, evaluated, and penalized for the fleeting wills of adolescents.

    Everyone received at least a C that year—not earned, received—and I was commended for my efforts. In the time to follow, I gave up. I taught the bare minimum and didn’t feel like my students learned anything of value, but they all got good grades. I got frequent praise for being such a “good teacher.” It made me physically ill. These empty words were in no way reflective of my capabilities as a genuine instructor nor the true capabilities of my students, but rather, they were akin to the praise you give a beloved pet: you did what you were told, “good teacher.”

    Despite this gilt of success, I was constantly prodded both inside the classroom and out by condescending remarks like, “It must be nice to have all that time off.” Time off? Did they mean the five or less hours of sleep I got each night between bouts of grading and planning? Did they mean the hours I spent checking my hundreds of e-mails, having to justify myself to parents, bosses, and random members of the community at large? Did they mean the time I missed with my family because I had to get all 150 of these essays graded and the data entered into a meaningless table to be analyzed for further instruction and evidence of my own worth? Did they mean the nine months of 80-hour work weeks, 40 of which were unpaid overtime weekly, only to be forced into a two-month, unpaid furlough during which I’m demeaned by the cashier at Staples for “all that time off?”

    I continued to wrinkle through the sludge because I wanted to believe that it would get better, and for a brief moment, it did. I got a new administrator who preached high standards and accountability, and I decided to try to hold my students to a standard once again. Combined with a brand-new curriculum that I had to learn basically overnight, I took the chance to set the bar high, especially when it came to the gifted and talented program. I was now teaching these “highly able learners,” and all of the training I received told me to challenge them, push them, take a step back in order to “tap the genius inside our schools.” So, I did. I created an intense environment that required students’ best work. I created opportunities for students to rise to the challenge. I provided choice and tapped creativity. And I required that students take ownership of their work and be proud of genuine effort. I felt like a “good teacher” then.

    However, as the whipping boy for society’s ills, I could do none of these things. I was lambasted by parents as being ineffective because their child had a B or a C. “S/he has always been an A student,” they screamed at me during frequent meetings. “How dare you give them a B?” Give them? Give them? In my silly attempts to assign grades based on what students earned according to the rubrics I was given and the high standards I set forth for student achievement, I was told that “I will not accept a grade of 50% because my student did not turn in an assignment on time.”

    I wanted to tell them to tell their child, then. Tell Johnny that you will not accept his lack of responsibility, and quell any of his excuses. The reality however, is that I had to apologize, hang my head, and give Johnny another chance to earn additional credit, as if that will somehow benefit him in the real world. Johnny planned poorly, and it somehow became my fault. I thought back to my new administration’s stock phrase that had initially given me a glimmer of hope, “We’re not in the business of changing grades.” Although I heard these words a lot, each time parents complained enough, I ended up having to change grades. I was confused. To me, this was akin to going to a hardware store and demanding that they make me a cake. They would try to tell me that cake baking wasn’t their business, but I would scream and be nasty over and over until I got that cake. If this scenario were to really happen, would that hardware store bake me a cake? Probably not. They would most likely call the police and ban me from the premises. So if we accept that modern education is a business (a modern tragedy) and that our business is not changing grades, why am I expected to cave to the insane ravings of confused and misguided consumers?

    I thought back to my own education, incredulous. Had I dropped the ball, my parents would have been wildly disappointed in me and apologized to the teacher, and I would have learned what not to do next time. However, education has abandoned us. Some may want to believe that my incredulity stems from defensiveness, a sort of “this wouldn’t have worked for me, so it’s only fair that it doesn’t work for you” because this is an easier truth for deluded people to accept. The real truth is that I wouldn’t have changed my failures for the world because I learned something, really learned something, and I always believed that part of my job was to help students learn things. We cannot concern ourselves so much with “fair.” As the old adage goes, “life isn’t fair,” and education should prepare students for life. Life may not be fair, but it is predictable in a statistically significant way; success generally follows hard work, doing something is typically more effective than doing nothing, and asking questions leads to answers. But remember, just because I am a teacher does not mean that my job is to help students learn things of value.

    My job is to be debased by an inescapable environment of distrust which insists that teachers cannot be permitted to create and administer their own tests and quizzes, now called “assessments,” or grade their own students’ work appropriately. The development of plans, choice of content, and the texts to be used are increasingly expected to be shared by all teachers in a given subject. In a world where I am constantly instructed to “differentiate” my methods, I am condemned for using different resources than those provided because if I do, we are unable to share “data” with the county and the nation at large.

    This counter-intuitive methodology smothers creativity, it restricts students’ critical thinking, and assumes a one-size-fits-all attitude that contradicts the message teachers receive. Teacher planning time has been so swallowed by the constant demand to prove our worth to the domination of oppressive teacher evaluation methods that there is little time for us to carefully analyze student work, conduct our own research, genuinely better ourselves through independent study instead of the generic mandated developments, or talk informally with our co-workers about intellectual pursuits. For a field that touts individuality and differentiation, we are forced to lump students together as we prepare all of these individuals for identical, common assessments. As a profession, we have become increasingly driven by meaningless data points and constant evaluation as opposed to discovery and knowledge.

    Originality, experimentation, academic liberty, teacher autonomy, and origination are being strangled in ill-advised efforts to “fix” things that were never broken. If I must prove my worth and my students’ learning through the provision of a measurable set of objectives, then I have taught them nothing because things of value cannot be measured. Inventiveness, inquisitiveness, attitude, work ethic, passion, these things cannot be quantified to a meager data point in an endless table of scrutiny.

    I am paid to give out gold stars to everyone so that no one feels left out, to give everyone an A because they feel sad if they don’t have one. I take the perpetual, insane harassment from parents who insist that their child’s failings are solely my fault because I do not coddle them to the point of being unable to accept any sort of critique; if each student is not perfect and prepared for college and life by age twelve, then I must be wrong about the quality of their work. I lower my own standards so much that I have been thinking my grades were generous. After years of being harangued, I gave Bs to D-quality work, but that is never good enough. All I can do is field the various phone calls, meetings, and e-mails, to let myself be abused, slandered, spit at because that is my career, taking the fall for our country’s mistakes and skewed priorities. So if you want your child to get an education, then I’m afraid that as a teacher, I can’t help you, but feel free to stop by if you want a sticker and a C.

    I sample educator Kris Nielson when I say that: I would love to teach, but I refuse to be led by a top-down hierarchy that is completely detached from the classrooms for which it is supposed to be responsible. I cannot integrate any more information about how important it is to differentiate our instruction as we prepare our kids for tests that are anything but differentiated. In addition, I totally object and refuse to have my performance as an educator rely on “Domain 5.” It is unfair, subjective, and does not reflect anything about the teaching practices of proven educators, rather it is one more vain piece of administrative busywork that I do not have time for.

    I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests that take advantage of children for the sake of profit. I refuse to subject students to every ridiculous standardized test that the state and/or district thinks is important. I refuse to have my higher-level and deep thinking lessons disrupted by meaningless assessments (like the Global Scholars test) that do little more than increase stress among children and teachers, waste instructional time and resources, and attempt to guide young adolescents into narrow choices. It is counter-productive to watch my students slouch under the weight of a system that expects them to perform well on tests that do not measure their true abilities, only memorization and application, and therefore do not measure their readiness for the next grade level—much less life, career, or college.

    I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day wishing I had some time to plan my fantastic lessons because the county comes up with new and inventive ways to steal that time, under the guise of PLC meetings or whatever. I’ve seen successful PLC development. It doesn’t look like this. I’m far enough behind in my own work that I will not spend another day wondering what menial, administrative task I will hear that I forgot to do next.

    I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day in a district where my coworkers are both on autopilot and in survival mode. I am tired of hearing about the miracles my peers are expected to perform, and watching the districts do next to nothing to support or develop them. I haven’t seen real professional development since I got here. The development sessions I have seen are sloppy, shallow, and have no real means of evaluation or accountability. I cannot stand to watch my coworkers being treated like untrustworthy slackers through the overbearing policies of this state, although they are the hardest working and most overloaded people I know. It is gut-wrenching to watch my district’s leadership tell us about the bad news and horrific changes coming towards us, then watch them shrug incompetently, and then tell us to work harder.

    I would love to teach, but I’m tired of my increasing and troublesome physical symptoms that come from all this frustration, stress, and sadness.

    Finally, I would love to teach, but I’m truly angry that parents put so much stress, fear, and anticipation into their kids’ heads to achieve a meaningless numeric grade that is inconsequential to their future needs, especially since their children’s teachers are being cowed into meeting expectations and standards that are not conducive to their children’s futures.

    I quit because I’m tired of being part of the problem, and as only one soul in the river Styx, it is impossible for me to be part of the solution.

    Could I be part of the solution? Of course. But no one ever asks the teachers, those who are up to their necks in the trenches each day, or if they do, it is in a patronizing way and our suggestions are readily discarded. Decisions about classrooms should be made in classrooms. Teachers are the most qualified individuals to determine what is needed for their own students. Each classroom is different. It has a different chemistry, different dynamic, different demographic, and the teacher is the one who keeps the balance. He or she knows each student, knows what they need, and they should be the ones making the decisions about how to best reach them. Sure, using different resources and strategies among schools may make data sharing more difficult, but haven’t we gone far enough with data? Each child is not a number or a data point. They can only be compared to the developmental capabilities set forth by medicine, not education, and to their own previous progress.

    In addition, teachers cannot and should not be evaluated on the grades of their students. Who then would try to teach the boy who will never progress past third grade due to a brain injury? Who then will teach the girl that refuses to complete any work? Who then would teach any special education classes? What stops me from skewing my grades to keep the world off my back? Education cannot be objectively measured. It never could, and our problems began when we came to that realization and instead of embracing it, decided to force it into a quantifiable box that is much too small and too much the wrong shape.

    Teachers are called to teach because they, like me, believe in potential. We are gardeners. We can plant the seeds, water, fertilize, but then we wait. Students don’t always grow under our watch; it may not be until years later that something we said or did takes root. As a result, it is impossible to hold teachers accountable for what amounts to students’ physical development. I cannot make them grow any faster; I can only provide the foundation for them to grow upon. I can provide opportunities for students to stretch and reach for the sun, I can provide them a scaffold upon which to rest on their way up, but it is up to them to try and it is up to our leaders to support us and our decisions. Like the growth we expect from our students, policy needs to be driven from the ground up, starting with teachers in order to provide the supports we need. How can we be told what we need from those who are not in our position? It is counterintuitive. Let teachers assess the needs of students so that these results can tell us what we need. It is not the place of outsiders to make one-size-fits-all mandates to a world of different shapes and proportions. In doing so, they create an atmosphere where pebbles are polished and diamonds dimmed.

    Though I referenced Robert Greene Ingersoll formerly, Clifford Stroll has already addressed our country’s educational misgivings in a single sentence: “Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, and understanding is not wisdom.” It is time that we fall on our sword. In our rabid pursuit of data and blame, we have sacrificed wisdom and abandoned its fruits. We cannot broaden our students’ horizons by placing them and their teachers into narrow boxes, unless we then plan to bury them.
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    Senior Contributor Stitch's Avatar
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    That is EXACTLY what's wrong with our educational system in the US; I don't teach, but my wife does, and I have to listen to at least one story a week along these lines. If the kid doesn't get good grades, it's NEVER the kids fault, always the teacher's. My wife has to answer at least one irate e-mail a week about why their child didn't pass a test (gee, maybe it's because they FAILED it!), or why the child didn't turn in their homework (like it's the teacher's fault!). I remember growing up that when I failed a test, I failed a test; it wasn't the teachers fault, it wasn't my parents fault, it wasn't my best friends fault, it was MY fault. Now everybody's into blaming someone else for their problems and, unfortunately, the teacher is an easy target.
    "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not there any more." -Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge

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    Senior Contributor GVChamp's Avatar
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    My thoughts are that you are focused on the wrong thing. The context of this editorial is within arguments over whether the US should impose ANY kind of standard AT ALL on teacher results, whether teachers can be held accountable and fired AT ALL, whether parents can have any choice AT ALL in where they send their children to school (besides simply moving), whether administrators have any right to reward good teachers AT ALL, etc.

    You'll note that the author says she opposes all of this. Wonderful. So let's hear about that instead of dragging Gen Y and parents through the mud.

    My work has jerks too and so does yours and so does everyone else's. Everyone gets saddled with unrealistic expectations. You get angry emails about students not doing their work? Big whoop. I get yelled at because the most senior person in the entire division does not do their job, and I have been in my current role less than 12 months, while in the next breath I am told "You are not his boss." The difference? In most cases it is difficult to remove a teacher. Firing me is at will and half the people in my division were terminated in an outsourcing arrangement. Oh yeah. Outsourcing. So all you have to do to get the people off your back is hand out some Cs? Yeah, okay, that's not even option for me. It's also not an option for my sister, who works front-end pharmacy, to tell seniors who do not understand their copays to shove off, because she loses customers. It is not an option for my fiancé to just roll over for the doctors, because if the doctors prescribe something lethal SHE is liable for MILLIONS of dollars in damages.

    I do not want to play oppression Olympics, but
    1. Stick to the damn point
    2. Bashing other people is not a point
    3. Everyone's job sucks
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    I just read this email to my wife who is a teacher and the entire time she was wholeheartedly shaking her head in agreement. I too agree. I teach the first year curriculum for military science at a university and just the 3 months I've been teaching, I'm seeing a huge proportion of my cadets/students who are wholly unprepared for higher education.

    I have also already received a nasty email from a parent for her 23 year old son earning a D in my class. I'm finding they don't know even very basic stuff like spelling, grammar, sentence structure, paragraph structure, or writing a basic essay. I'm seeing the product of the public education system and I find myself wondering how do I make up for all the ground that has been lost because they haven't been taught how to do these things I "thought" was a requirement just to make it into high school let alone graduate from it...

    I may be posing questions for advice in the future on this forum since I see there is a wealth of experience here in this very subject. Time will tell, I'll keep you updated on my progress as I test methods to get these guys and gals ready for the next level.
    Last edited by Brinktk; 07 Jan 14, at 01:03.

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    My parents are both retired teachers who became principals. One of the most important lessons they taught me is that children are taught at school, but they learn at home. If the parents aren't engaged, only the most extraordinary student will succeed. If the parents are engaged, even the most challenged student will improve.

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    Huh, where to start...

    First of all not any two teachers are the same, nor the same teacher will give/award/assign same grade every day to every student given the same answer. It's not (only) because they lack standards, but also because every kid responds differently, some take the carrot, the others...

    The letter from this teacher sounds a lot like she needs an excuse to give up. She tried everything but to stand her own ground. Either that or she is highly unorganized and can't work under pressure.

    If one plans to work in school you must be ready to deal with 1000 kids, 2000 parents, and then some administration and politics. Your colleagues come as an extra.

    Coming from a family of teachers, married to one, being in the system and now having a kid in it, observing the things from all the angles, I came to the conclusion that the "arrogant" teachers seems to fare the best. By arrogant I mean those offering a lot to the kids, asking a lot from them and not giving a damn about the principle's or counselor's wish to pass some kids or to fix some grades. They have time for every kid - 15 mins once per semester. From what I can witness their kids have above the average results and their grades are also very, very real. Nope, my wife is not (yet) one of them . My grandfather, however, was.

    On some of the topics she will be spot on even here - too much administration, no free time - at least not as much your friends and neighbors think you have, frequent changes of curriculum...

    On a side note, what I find surprising is that GV Champ mentioned there are no standards in measuring teachers results. Since I know US schools have standardized tests for the end of the year, it is fairly easy to be done.
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    “If they have D’s or F’s, there is something that you are not doing for them.”



    There are two things but most teachers are not allowed to do either one of them.

    1) Some kids are either not prepared for the current class or will never be able to understand the subject matter. They need to drop a grade or two to learn what they should have the first time and/or go to a completely different curriculum because they will never get what is going on currently. Kicking kids out of the classroom because they really don't belong there is no longer allowed.

    2) Some kids really do need the teachers size 12 boot up their ass as a motivator. God help the teacher that actually helps his students in this fashion.
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    Global Moderator Defense Professional JAD_333's Avatar
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    One might not think this relates, but when my son was 9, I signed him up for kid's soccer (football to you non-Americans). The league had 12 teams. The idea was for him to have fun, but also learn teamwork, how to compete following rules, and experience what it took to win. When the season ended, his team was dead last. On the final day, trophies were handed out, and much to my surprise every kid on every team got exactly the same trophy and a big certificate. I remarked to the person handing out the trophies that it did not seem right that the losers as well as the winners all got the same trophy. The answer was, 'we don't want to hurt any kid's feelings; winning doesn't matter; only playing matters.' My kid felt like a winner. That left him unable to confront the fact that he had really lost.

    This new way of thinking shocked me. In my day, winning did matter, and when you lost, you felt bad, and that drove you to try harder the next time, but at least you knew why you lost. Only winners and achievers got awards, and that affirmed the value of hard work. One year, I tried week after week to win the class penmanship award. I lost repeatedly which made me try harder, and finally I won, and I was on cloud nine...lol...all over a lousy award for writing neatly. It was a Catholic parochial school. The nuns and lay teachers were gods; they rapped knuckles with a ruler when you misbehaved in class or they sat you in the corner on a stool facing the wall for the whole class. You learned to behave.

    Today, my grade school graduating class actually has an alumni association. When I look at the list of my former classmates I am struck by how many went on to become accomplished professionals--doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, business owners. But you would think, looking at how schools are run today, that back then we suffered degradation and learned nothing. The world wasn't a better place when I was growing up, but we knew the difference between true success and failure. If it's true, as the article says, that today's system aims to increase the success rate by lowering the bar for failure, then it's understandable why so many students entering college today can only read or write at a grade school level.
    Last edited by JAD_333; 07 Jan 14, at 04:52.
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    Senior Contributor bonehead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAD_333 View Post
    One might not think this relates, but when my son was 9, I signed him up for kid's soccer (football to you non-Americans). The league had 12 teams. The idea was for him to have fun, but also learn teamwork, how to compete following rules, and experience what it took to win. When the season ended, his team was dead last. On the final day, trophies were handed out, and much to my surprise every kid on every team got exactly the same trophy and a big certificate. I remarked to the person handing out the trophies that it did not seem right that the losers as well as the winners all got the same trophy. The answer was, 'we don't want to hurt any kid's feelings; winning doesn't matter; only playing matters.' My kid felt like a winner. That left him unable to confront the fact that he had really lost.

    This new way of thinking shocked me. In my day, winning did matter, and when you lost, you felt bad, and that drove you to try harder the next time, but at least you knew why you lost. Only winners and achievers got awards, and that affirmed the value of hard work. One year, I tried week after week to win the class penmanship award. I lost repeatedly which made me try harder, and finally I won, and I was on cloud nine...lol...all over a lousy award for writing neatly. It was a Catholic parochial school. The nuns and lay teachers were gods; they rapped knuckles with a ruler when you misbehaved in class or they sat you in the corner on a stool facing the wall for the whole class. You learned to behave.

    Today, my grade school graduating class actually has an alumni association. When I look at the list of my former classmates I am struck by how many went on to become accomplished professionals--doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, business owners. But you would think, looking at how schools are run today, that back then we suffered degradation and learned nothing. The world wasn't a better place when I was growing up, but we knew the difference between true success and failure. If it's true, as the article says, that today's system aims to increase the success rate by lowering the bar for failure, then it's understandable why so many students entering college today can only read or write at a grade school level.


    If your kid did learn teamwork, how to compete, learn the rules, etc, he is a winner in a much stronger sense than if his team was in first place. He is going to carry those lessons with him the rest of his life. Isn't that more important than his teams actual win loss record at 9 years old? Sometimes the journey/experience really is the important thing. At younger ages you should reward the early accomplishments no matter how small. The winning of contests, and the real trophies, will come later but you have to learn the game and put in the effort first. If at 9 the whole emphasis is on winning, too much gets lost along the way and kids will suffer for it down the road. At 9 and at the beginning/learning stage I really don't see any problems with this. At High school level? We have a problem. There is nothing at all wrong with a strong desire to win/succeed. However, I don't think you have to look too hard to find adults who spent their whole life thinking winning is absolutely everything. Far too many are complete losers in the end.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAD_333 View Post
    One might not think this relates, but when my son was 9, I signed him up for kid's soccer (football to you non-Americans). The league had 12 teams. The idea was for him to have fun, but also learn teamwork, how to compete following rules, and experience what it took to win. When the season ended, his team was dead last. On the final day, trophies were handed out, and much to my surprise every kid on every team got exactly the same trophy and a big certificate. I remarked to the person handing out the trophies that it did not seem right that the losers as well as the winners all got the same trophy. The answer was, 'we don't want to hurt any kid's feelings; winning doesn't matter; only playing matters.' My kid felt like a winner. That left him unable to confront the fact that he had really lost.

    This new way of thinking shocked me. In my day, winning did matter, and when you lost, you felt bad, and that drove you to try harder the next time, but at least you knew why you lost. Only winners and achievers got awards, and that affirmed the value of hard work. One year, I tried week after week to win the class penmanship award. I lost repeatedly which made me try harder, and finally I won, and I was on cloud nine...lol...all over a lousy award for writing neatly. It was a Catholic parochial school. The nuns and lay teachers were gods; they rapped knuckles with a ruler when you misbehaved in class or they sat you in the corner on a stool facing the wall for the whole class. You learned to behave.

    Today, my grade school graduating class actually has an alumni association. When I look at the list of my former classmates I am struck by how many went on to become accomplished professionals--doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, business owners. But you would think, looking at how schools are run today, that back then we suffered degradation and learned nothing. The world wasn't a better place when I was growing up, but we knew the difference between true success and failure. If it's true, as the article says, that today's system aims to increase the success rate by lowering the bar for failure, then it's understandable why so many students entering college today can only read or write at a grade school level.
    I also went to Catholic school and experienced the same stuff. Even carried on into high school where Fr. La Reviera, ex-Merchant Marine, would either hit you from across the room with an eraser and bang your head into the blackboard. Needless to say no one complained and he had the best behaved junior and senior class in the school. It was embarrassing to acknowledge you were the one.

    If I came home with a bad grade my mother asked me where I had a problem and not whether the teacher had a problem. I also remember getting an F in penmanship back in 5th grade. Pissed me off so much that I vowed a change and an A. People, to this day, still remark how nice and clear my handwriting is. Actually it is still damn near perfect.

    As for Pop Warner football and Little League baseball all I wanted was to finish first because first got the trophy and the rest didn't. When we didn't finish first my mental state wasn't irreparably damaged. Last, I can honestly say I didn't kill anyone and neither did any of my classmates.

  11. #11
    Global Moderator Defense Professional JAD_333's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bonehead View Post
    If your kid did learn teamwork, how to compete, learn the rules, etc, he is a winner in a much stronger sense than if his team was in first place. He is going to carry those lessons with him the rest of his life. Isn't that more important than his teams actual win loss record at 9 years old? Sometimes the journey/experience really is the important thing. At younger ages you should reward the early accomplishments no matter how small. The winning of contests, and the real trophies, will come later but you have to learn the game and put in the effort first. If at 9 the whole emphasis is on winning, too much gets lost along the way and kids will suffer for it down the road. At 9 and at the beginning/learning stage I really don't see any problems with this. At High school level? We have a problem. There is nothing at all wrong with a strong desire to win/succeed. However, I don't think you have to look too hard to find adults who spent their whole life thinking winning is absolutely everything. Far too many are complete losers in the end.
    You make some good points. I don't agree entirely. You are right that he learned teamwork, following rules and so on. No question those lessons have value in themselves. But he also learned a lesson I believe is less valuable, and that is you don't have to win to be rewarded. It's not like he was going to be raked over the coals for losing. No one was going to yell at him like the proverbial soccer mom. It's more like using his loss to motivate him to improve his skills so he could do better next time.
    To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

  12. #12
    Global Moderator Defense Professional JAD_333's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tbm3fan View Post
    I also went to Catholic school and experienced the same stuff. Even carried on into high school where Fr. La Reviera, ex-Merchant Marine, would either hit you from across the room with an eraser and bang your head into the blackboard. Needless to say no one complained and he had the best behaved junior and senior class in the school. It was embarrassing to acknowledge you were the one.

    If I came home with a bad grade my mother asked me where I had a problem and not whether the teacher had a problem. I also remember getting an F in penmanship back in 5th grade. Pissed me off so much that I vowed a change and an A. People, to this day, still remark how nice and clear my handwriting is. Actually it is still damn near perfect.

    As for Pop Warner football and Little League baseball all I wanted was to finish first because first got the trophy and the rest didn't. When we didn't finish first my mental state wasn't irreparably damaged. Last, I can honestly say I didn't kill anyone and neither did any of my classmates.
    Deja vu all over again, as Yogi would say. The best teacher I ever had was in high school English, a Franciscan monk. He made sure everyone in the class learned everything he had to teach. He quizzed us over and over until he was satisfied we got it. He never raised his voice, and no one ever misbehaved. He had way about him that made you want to please him. Anyway, I'm glad to see someone else shared my experience and didn't turn out to be a psychopath.
    To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

  13. #13
    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    One sided pity party.

    In addition, teachers cannot and should not be evaluated on the grades of their students. Who then would try to teach the boy who will never progress past third grade due to a brain injury? Who then will teach the girl that refuses to complete any work? Who then would teach any special education classes? What stops me from skewing my grades to keep the world off my back? Education cannot be objectively measured. It never could, and our problems began when we came to that realization and instead of embracing it, decided to force it into a quantifiable box that is much too small and too much the wrong shape.
    She should have led with this diamond.

    Teacher planning time has been so swallowed by the constant demand to prove our worth to the domination of oppressive teacher evaluation methods that there is little time for us to carefully analyze student work, conduct our own research, genuinely better ourselves through independent study instead of the generic mandated developments, or talk informally with our co-workers about intellectual pursuits.
    Someone is scared of being graded.

    We are gardeners. We can plant the seeds, water, fertilize, but then we wait. Students don’t always grow under our watch; it may not be until years later that something we said or did takes root.
    LOL - don't hold me to any standards. If the plants don't grow you ask them why and if things don't improve fire them, you don't let them hang around for a few decades then get a pension.

    For a field that touts individuality and differentiation, we are forced to lump students together as we prepare all of these individuals for identical, common assessments. As a profession, we have become increasingly driven by meaningless data points and constant evaluation as opposed to discovery and knowledge.
    Yet she gives out Ds and Fs - though I assume she doesn't want to be on the hook for those kids with the parents who give "insane ravings of confused and misguided."

    So if you want your child to get an education, then I’m afraid that as a teacher, I can’t help you, but feel free to stop by if you want a sticker and a C.
    Yawn.

    To me, this was akin to going to a hardware store and demanding that they make me a cake. They would try to tell me that cake baking wasn’t their business, but I would scream and be nasty over and over until I got that cake
    The fuck? Her job includes the issuing of grades, those parents showed up with questions regarding her job. Pathetic illustration which shows her own arrogance and poor thought process.

    f this scenario were to really happen, would that hardware store bake me a cake? Probably not. They would most likely call the police and ban me from the premises. So if we accept that modern education is a business (a modern tragedy) and that our business is not changing grades, why am I expected to cave to the insane ravings of confused and misguided consumers?
    They are not misguided consumers - they are the parents of students forced by law to sit in your classroom and their money was taken by the government to pay your salary. Not much free market at play there.

    Education cannot be objectively measured. It never could, and our problems began when we came to that realization and instead of embracing it, decided to force it into a quantifiable box that is much too small and too much the wrong shape.
    Someone doesn't want to be graded herself. She has no problem with grading the "misguided consumers" but wants a pass for herself.

    I continued to wrinkle through the sludge because I wanted to believe that it would get better, and for a brief moment, it did. I got a new administrator who preached high standards and accountability, and I decided to try to hold my students to a standard once again.
    Oh you poor thing...

    Finally, I would love to teach, but I’m truly angry that parents put so much stress, fear, and anticipation into their kids’ heads to achieve a meaningless numeric grade that is inconsequential to their future needs, especially since their children’s teachers are being cowed into meeting expectations and standards that are not conducive to their children’s futures.
    So now you have a problem with parents who are involved and concerned over grades?

    It must be nice to have all that time off.” Time off? Did they mean the five or less hours of sleep I got each night between bouts of grading and planning? Did they mean the hours I spent checking my hundreds of e-mails, having to justify myself to parents, bosses, and random members of the community at large? Did they mean the time I missed with my family because I had to get all 150 of these essays graded and the data entered into a meaningless table to be analyzed for further instruction and evidence of my own worth? Did they mean the nine months of 80-hour work weeks, 40 of which were unpaid overtime weekly, only to be forced into a two-month, unpaid furlough during ”
    Whiny.

    which I’m demeaned by the cashier at Staples for “all that time off?
    To be demeaned by such low class people.

    So, I did. I created an intense environment that required students’ best work. I created opportunities for students to rise to the challenge. I provided choice and tapped creativity. And I required that students take ownership of their work and be proud of genuine effort. I felt like a “good teacher” then.
    Hardass who prided herself on being tough.

    However, as the whipping boy for society’s ills, I could do none of these things.
    Whipping person

    Let teachers assess the needs of students so that these results can tell us what we need. It is not the place of outsiders to make one-size-fits-all mandates to a world of different shapes and proportions. In doing so, they create an atmosphere where pebbles are polished and diamonds dimmed.
    Scared of being measured by the performance of those pebbles and diamonds.

    I refuse to subject students to every ridiculous standardized test that the state and/or district thinks is important. I refuse to have my higher-level and deep thinking lessons disrupted by meaningless assessments (like the Global Scholars test) that do little more than increase stress among children and teachers, waste instructional time and resources, and attempt to guide young adolescents into narrow choices. It is counter-productive to watch my students slouch under the weight of a system that expects them to perform well on tests that do not measure their true abilities, only memorization and application, and therefore do not measure their readiness for the next grade level—much less life, career, or college.
    Their parents are crazy, they are lazy, the school board is out of touch, I'm a martyr - but please don't link my job to the performance of pebbles.
    ===========
    Arrogant bitch needed to go find a new job long before she wrote this crap. Did she count this whiny email as partof her 40 unpaid hours of work? Sadly she will probably collect a pension from those "deranged customers." A waste of space and the world is better off without her.
    Last edited by troung; 07 Jan 14, at 17:26.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  14. #14
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    For two years, I taught advanced HS, tech college, and prison classes.

    The teachers in prison were all state employees who used to teach in regular schools. Every single one of them said if they had to go back and teach in regular classrooms, they'd quit.

    And I could see why.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brinktk View Post
    I just read this email to my wife who is a teacher and the entire time she was wholeheartedly shaking her head in agreement. I too agree. I teach the first year curriculum for military science at a university and just the 3 months I've been teaching, I'm seeing a huge proportion of my cadets/students who are wholly unprepared for higher education.

    I have also already received a nasty email from a parent for her 23 year old son earning a D in my class. I'm finding they don't know even very basic stuff like spelling, grammar, sentence structure, paragraph structure, or writing a basic essay. I'm seeing the product of the public education system and I find myself wondering how do I make up for all the ground that has been lost because they haven't been taught how to do these things I "thought" was a requirement just to make it into high school let alone graduate from it...

    I may be posing questions for advice in the future on this forum since I see there is a wealth of experience here in this very subject. Time will tell, I'll keep you updated on my progress as I test methods to get these guys and gals ready for the next level.
    And when you got that email, did you tell them to ask the student?

    That's the way it is around here, FEDERALLY. It doesn't matter if the parent is paying the way; what is going on with the student is discussed only with the student.

    "Fortunately", I teach a technical skill where if people, adults, don't learn it right, they could die. So my say on "go or no go" is law. Of course, there are always at least two things to it. First of all, go or no go is not tied in with what goes down in the grade book. Secondly, I can be over ridden..................if they can find another instructor willing to take the risk.

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