I have freely admitted that I am a dinosaur when it comes to modern educational thought, I believe that you learn to be a good teacher by doing the job, by observing those around you, choosing/having a mentor or role model like Mrs. Gruis (my 5th grade teacher), Mrs Askegaard my 6th grade teacher or Mrs. Briggs and Mrs. Ziesman (the teachers across the hall during my first year). The ubiquitous In-service, that teachers are now subjected to, is where you may occasionally learn some new techniques but more likely the latest short-term educational fad preached to the choir by one of their own. You may learn to be a better teacher in an in-service but in the classroom is where you learn to be an educator. I also believe that it probably takes most teachers at least 6 years of classroom experience before we fully learn our job and at the same time learn discipline techniques that allow us to start taking the matches away from kids instead of putting out the fires.
I don’t believe that most college professors or the federal government are in any meaningful way truly in touch with the problems being dealt with in the modern classroom. College has its benefits on a theoretical level for teachers but proper application of educational theory is learned in the classroom on the job not in college. Just as a carpenter doesn’t learn to make straight cuts or measure “twice and cut once,” by reading a book or listening to instructions, new teachers lacking practice, real classroom skills, and experience have a steep learning curve the first year. Even the natural teachers, don’t walk into a classroom for the first time, the same person that they will be 5 or 6 years later. I believe that teaching is an art or craft not a science and any attempts to change it into a science such as we are doing in education right now under the NCLB are doomed to failure.
The nearly incessant teacher retraining and standardization in techniques that are often neither logical nor effective, are currently being and will be in the future met with abject failure that they deserve. I believe that all teachers need to use within the limits of professional boundaries their own personal professional methods of teaching and discipline, and must be given the room within the educational framework and the classroom to maneuver around, over, under and through the curriculum to meet the highly diverse needs of their students. Efforts to follow a one size fits all factory approach to education as we are now trying in too many places is not only wrong it is almost criminal in its net effect.
Caught up in a looks good, sounds good, makes me feel good, egalitarian death spiral our educational system and our society is dying in front of our eyes. It is popular for our media to blame the ills of our society on our slowly dying schools, in fact it is exactly the opposite, the ills of our schools are a result of the ongoing fragmentation of common sense and acceptance of mediocrity of our society.
I believe that the public schools are the last societal glue we have in America. They are the last of the common experiences shared by the majority of our citizens. For better or worse we used to have a fairly consistent religious base; service in the army for the men and waiting together at home for the women, along with a sense of national purpose that is now so fragmented as to be unrecognizable.
Common purpose has been replaced by the me first mentality which shamefully got its start with my generation. Our society now is not unlike that of a yard full of starving pit bulls fighting to reach the food bowl and then continuing to defend that food bowl to the death when it is completely empty failing to recognize that it was the food that was important not the container.
We are currently following the manufacturing model of education. I.e. take your inputs (children) and process all of them the same way with the same machines (curriculum, robotic teachers and programmed techniques) and you will produce a standard product. Amazingly I agree that this process will absolutely work with our students and that through its use we will be able to produce a uniformly mediocre final product with the strongest students being weakened during the process and some of the weakest being strengthened until we are all within one standard deviation of perfectly average a nation of future proletarians ready-made for Orwell’s vision of a dystopian future