I am interrupting my travel journals this week to respond to something that is always percolating in my Amber-like brain: the future of education. This week I watched the 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman. Without going into too much synopsis, the film basically looks at the failings of American public schools. Although it is not the only reason given, one of the chief aspects considered is the accountability of teachers. It’s a wonderful cliche to call teachers heroes and say they should be celebrated and paid more. I call it a cliche because, like all cliches, it has truth to it. A good teacher is a hero.
But what about the bad ones? The ones collecting paychecks? The ones who are more concerned with being liked than actually teaching? The ones who don’t actually know much about what they are actually teaching?
I think the later of that list bothers me the most. I am taking an online grad class this summer full of high school teachers, all with more teaching experience than I have. And they don’t know the fundamentals of the subject they are supposedly teaching, causing my professor to remediate in a graduate class. What bothers me more than the lack of knowledge is that these people, rather than trying to think about things critically, parrot the textbook, rely on only their areas comfort (the four books they teach each year), or refuse to investigate possible alternatives. No wonder the students at the college level don’t know how to think!
I am deeply flawed as a teacher, but I believe I have a saving grace. I am willing to learn, to admit when I’m wrong, to acknowledge that in order to be a good teacher, I must also be a student. I must be accountable–yes, my job is hard, but that does not mean I should get a pass. To quote Arthur Miller, “Attention must be paid.” For what are teachers but models? Poor thinking skills beget poor thinking skills. The cycle is vicious.
For those of you who teach or have school aged children, I highly recommend Waiting for Superman. They also have a website, http://www.waitingforsuperman.com that tells you how you can get involved.