SBN wrote:Good teachers are priceless, but unfortunately bad teachers are way too common. And even the good ones are often hamstrung by the system, and their own pre-conceptions. Conversation with my, then middle-school daughter's teachers:
English teacher: She is probably the best writer I've ever had.
Math teacher: That explains why she is so bad at math.
Enough teachers told her that, and believed that, that she became that. But she had the potential to be pretty good at it. Probably not to the creating it level, but at least to the making it work level.
My other daughter mastered multiplication in second grade. (Because her sister was learning it that year, and they liked to play school.)
At the end of the year, the teacher told me that she believed second graders couldn't understand multiplication. Probably true, on average, but she had in front of her a child who could, and did, and still refused to believe it possible. Sadly, she had been teaching at that point for 28 years. I hope that the student teacher she had that year went into her career more open to the possibility that kids can be better than the norm, not just worse.
I have a coupla stories. My sister, 4 years younger, learned a lot from me as I was learning, which gave her an edge in school. She must have idolized me, nasty mustard that I was. She was always at the top of her class (while I was always near the bottom). But later, it caught up with her and she had trouble in college since she hadn't previously learned to work hard. Everything was too easy for her. Then BANG. The wall.
My son had a terrible teacher in one grade and never learned his addition tables (my problem was multiplication). His self image was that he was bad at math and it was hard to shake that notion. Smart kid in general. In college he had to take Calculus (there it is again) and he did very well. Big surprise. He had to re-evaluate his self image. But he still does thing like 5 + 7 on his fingers.
Why is it hard to get good teachers? In NYC the lot is mixed, but there is a reason. Pay is pretty high compared to the rest of the country, but not to the surrounding area. So the very best candidates can teach in New Rochelle and make a LOT more money or teach in NYC, perhaps with lots of urban problems (poor students - economically and scholastically, etc). The standard are also pretty high. But in September, pretty much every year, there are a LOT of unfilled teacher positions in the city (but not the richer suburbs). So they pass a law canceling (temporarily) all of the standards and just hire whoever is available. This can amount to hundreds of people. We have a lot of problems.
I'll be popish for a second: If you want a better country, build a better educational system. And NO, I don't mean charter schools, which just suck money out of the public system so that some private companies can make a profit at the expense of poor kids. But it is now awfully hard to get from where we are to something better. Alas.
Lurking. Watching. Thinking. Writing. Waiting.
-- Charlie Grumbles