Tuesday, December 21, 2021

That's How Love Works

Recently, someone threatened me with Hell again. This person had various reasons why God was justified in sending me there, but their chief reason was that I "reject" God.

This is my cat. She rejects me every #$%^&*# day (but she loves my wife). Do you know what my response has NEVER been?

"Let's torture the little shit for eternity!"

In fact, regardless of her response to me, I love Lu. I will always care for her and always protect her.

That's how LOVE works.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Instruction Over Practice

I think one of the major failures of education over the past few decades has been an overemphasis on instruction.  Educational reformers have told teachers, school districts, legislators... anyone who would listen... that a student could become proficient at anything if they were "taught" it correctly.

Imagine a baseball team that avoided practice.  An orchestra that never rehearsed.  A military unit that never drilled.  An officer who has been instructed in firearms but rarely fires one.

What are you good at?  In most cases, it is the thing that you spent time practicing.  Instruction is wonderful, but it doesn't tend to go very far without time spent on the instructed task.

However, an expectation of practice puts some of the ownership on the one being instructed... and that doesn't work for our consumer economy.  No, the customer is always right.  In a student as consumer environment, all responsibility is put on the instructor.

Teachers are leaving the classroom in droves.  People always say we need to raise salaries to stop the hemorrhaging.  It may help a little, but pay for teachers has ALWAYS been on the low side.

I think what really changed was that all responsibility for the child's education moved to the teacher.  It used to be more of a partnership between home, teacher, and child, but now a child's success or lack thereof is resting with the teacher alone.

Joey practices.  Jimmy does not.  When Jimmy fails to advance, no one considers that perhaps it has something to do with his lack of time on task.  In today's schools, the teacher is saddled with extra paperwork and data meetings to try to adjust instruction in such a way that will allow Jimmy to be as proficient as Joey... but never require that Jimmy actually do anything.

Or, maybe, Jimmy really is working at it... but he still can't achieve Joey's level of proficiency. He just isn't as gifted in this area as Joey. Again, in this scenario, the teacher is still evaluated as coming up short.  According to the educational reformers, teachers should be able to move all students to equal ability... regardless of time on task or natural talent.

This is why so many teachers quit within the first 5 years now.  Being responsible to do a good job teaching is one thing.  Being responsible for every x-factor in a student's education is demoralizing.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Teacher Evaluations

Forbes recently published an article entitled "This Decade-Long Experiment In Teacher Evaluation Is An Unsurprising Failure".  The whole article is worth a read, but it can be summed up in this quote-

"a raft of research told us that test scores were hugely correlated to factors far beyond a teacher’s control. The effect is that a “good” teacher is one who’s been put in a classroom with high-scoring students, and a “bad” one is in a classroom with low-scoring students."

I experienced this first hand.  I spent 8 years in a Title One school before the ten in a wealthy neighborhood where I presently teach.  I could go on for pages describing the differences.  

If it were all about the teacher... as present evaluation methods assume... there should have been no change in "my" scores when I moved schools.  Student circumstance, ability, and predilections shouldn't matter.  However, unsurprisingly, "my" scores got a good boost when I switched schools.

I enjoyed teaching at my Title One school.  I knew a lot of amazing teachers there.  But none of them stayed.  It was not that teaching Title One kids was difficult... it was the score pressure.  My admin and our district support staff literally believed that the reason our school did not score as well as our district's wealthy East-side schools was due to the teachers.  As was stated by my admin and reading coach during a staff meeting where teachers were being blamed for low scores, "Backman students will start scoring like Bonneville students when Backman teachers start teaching like Bonneville teachers."

Well, after a few years of being browbeaten like that, I moved to one of our East-side schools.  Apparently, that was all I needed to do to become a "good" teacher.

Underlying all of this is a misguided notion that students can be instructed into proficiency.  Teachers are evaluated as if they are the only x-factor in student outcomes.  This approach has nearly ruined the teaching profession in America.  More troubling is that there is little will in our nation to change it.

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