You can have the greatest programs in the world-tried and tested but if they are not implemented with great instruction, the results won’t happen. In all of the talk and years of reform, having great instruction has always been considered of paramount importance. I think in many ways, we have missed the boat on the “how-to” here.
We have ramped up teacher evaluations with administrators doing “pop-in” spot evaluations and the more formal ones several times yearly. Teachers are accustomed to preparing for the formal evaluations and plan and rehearse in advance (my anecdotal experience). In these evaluations teachers follow a format being sure to cover all the bases of a “model” lesson. Present the material. Demonstrate or show the learning targets. Use guided instruction and then you try it. Review. Check for understanding. If a teacher is doing all of this they are great, right?
Well, maybe. Now we have teachers as facilitators and the classroom is less formal so there may be talking and kids moving around. This kind of instruction is harder to evaluate than the traditional. In the past, order and demeanor equaled quality instruction. Now? Not so much. Kids may seem engaged or be engaged in their work, but it is harder to see what they are learning. So are the traditional teachers getting better evaluations than their reinvented counterparts? Is it about quiet and crowd control? How do we assess the teaching and learning in a STEM classroom where students are doing instead of listening?
The problem is we are rewarding, or not, teachers who do well on these evaluations along with some other factors like the standardized tests. Are we bothering with a sincere attempt with teachers whose subjects are not tested? Do they matter too? Teacher evaluation has been reduced to a formula for convenience when it really isn’t something you can mass produce. This all important appraisal cannot be standardized and yet, we do. And the consequences are huge for some.
I have been around a while and I admit that usually, all of the teachers know who is good and who is not. This understanding is not rocket science. At the same time, are we providing enough nurturing and mentoring for those who need it? Are we willing to go beyond “one size fits all?”
In addition, let’s say the poor quality teachers get “counseled out.” Who replaces these teachers? Are they more of the same from the typical education programs who are not too discerning in those admitted?
Yes, you know what I am saying. We need to change the qualifications to enter a teacher education program. We need to change the structure of these programs. We need to get the best and the brightest and enlist them in doing this most important work. We need for education to focus on education — not on sports or who is class president. We need to teach both students and parents that there is nothing more important that a fine education and its foundation for life. It is the ticket to literacy and capability for the future.
Many comparisons are made between education in the United States and other countries whose systems produce more competent (higher PISA scores) graduates. There are many components to doing this and I only fault the US in one major area. We need to value education like these other countries. We are not similar to them in many other ways, so excusing ourselves because we are more diverse and because public education offers the opportunity to all, is not an excuse.
We need to do better. We need to value teachers and make their job a priority. We can’t see the immediate financial reward of their work, and I believe this is one reason teachers are not well-paid. The stakes don’t seem high enough if there is no direct correlation to income produced. We need to value the future of our country in which children will become, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, engineers, scientists and the like. And these to-be professionals will be serving YOU. An education degree should not be the easiest degree to obtain or an option for those who don’t know what else to do. At the same time, liking children and passion is not enough. This is or must be serious business. It is not something to do until something better comes along. As a country we must re-prioritize and value education and the backbone of it–TEACHERS.