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Keeping Expectations Real for Our Public School Teachers

Over the last five or six decades, the role and expectations for the classroom educator has changed from teacher to something entirely different, which they were never trained for.

I have watched conditions unfold over the last 30 years that have led me to believe that the problems in education are not the educators, but the expectations placed on educational institutions and the teachers.

Schools are one of the focal points within communities. Public schools are mandated by law to accept all eligible students. Schools become the crucible in which children of all differing abilities, cultures, social economic statuses, race, religions, learning traditions, and families are cast into, with the goal of becoming literate members of society. This was a goal of Horace Mann the father of American Education. Not only was he the strongest 19th century proponent of universal public education, but he founded the “normal schools” for the training of teachers. He felt that the crucible effect would positively benefit not only the individual student but society as a whole.  The universal school system has been instrumental in forming the singular American identity.

Educators have been trained to educate. They are not trained to be psychotherapists, psychologists, social workers, nannies, nurses or conflict mediators. But, social problems requiring the skills of these other professions are what precisely teachers must deal with on a daily basis. On top of that, many teachers are standing alone without the support of student’s families or the support of the community. School administrations are also unable to deal with the avalanche of problems that walk through the door. They are lucky, in some circumstances, to be able just to maintain order and protect the students and teachers from physical harm.

Many of the schools that have the lowest performance are also the schools that are inundated with the most social problems. These schools are normally serving the most impoverished communities with the least amount of public support for the school and the educational process. When these troubled schools are compared to schools found in other areas that are not subjected to the immense social problems; it is not surprising that schools in the suburbs and rural areas perform much better.  Even the most dedicated and competent teacher would have difficulty in the problem schools.

When we evaluate teachers, are we evaluating their competency as teachers or are we evaluating them on managing the social problems of their students. It is clear to me that remove the social issues interfering with learning, then performance will raise to that of rural and suburban schools.  

Let’s keep our expectations real for education and schools. Teachers have unjustly been scapegoated for the school’s inability to overcome the social problems, which lead to unsatisfactory performance.    

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James R Hoffa September 20, 2012 at 11:04 PM
@Randy1949 & @Dave Koven - Two names for you guys - Jaime Escalante and Joe Louis Clark. They should be the standard, not the exception! Instead the standard is cry babies like Koven! Koven should be ashamed for all the whining he's done on this blog, but Hoffa knows he's not.
Dave Koven September 20, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Hoffa...So have I. I taught at a real University (Big Ten), not just at a community college where most of your students were probably (to their credit) working on their GEDs. I have also taught in inner city schools in Milwaukee, Detroit, and Prince George's County, Maryland. I have also taught in nicer schools, where the kids are supposed to be problem free (lol). College teaching is great. The kids all want to be there and have paid for the privilege. I never had to break up any fights in college or disarm anyone. What you call bellyaching is actually someone describing reality to the uninformed. When you say no one can talk negatively about their work without it being called "bellyaching" by the great Hoffa, you will never get a bead on what problems have to be solved. But...I guess that is your game. I thought you were more intelligent. That's why I took the time to dialogue with you. We all make mistakes, and mine was trying to reason with Hoffa, the Great Obfuscator (look it up in a dictionary, or ask a real teacher what it means).
James R Hoffa September 20, 2012 at 11:23 PM
@Dave Koven - Maybe if you were actually highlighting problems, we'd pay attention. But as McBride has pointed out above, all you're doing is playing the victim card here! You're making it out to be all about you, the teacher, instead of making it out to be about the kids. Jaime Escalante accepted the challenges he faced without any bellyaching and he had it far worse than anything you could have possibly ever experienced! I don't think you'd find a single conservative that would bad mouth Escalante. But you know who did bad mouth Escalante - his fellow pro-active union teachers for making the rest of them look bad.
Ima Hippee September 20, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Dave K - Geesh, do you need to whine so much? I suspect your benefit plan has counseling? Don't do it here. BTW - if college teaching is so great, why did you leave it? No wait, don't answer that.
Dave Koven September 21, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Ima..Stop complaining about "whining"? How else can anyone tell you what the realities are? If "Do good and disappear" was such a good idea, why aren't the politicians doing it? I spent 34 successful years in education and helped a lot of kids/young adults, from college level to Kindergarten. You go where you're needed. Please re-read all my comments on this thread. If you don't like a dose of reality from someone who has been there, too bad for you and all the others who say they want to bury their heads in the sand and not have to hear about reality. Escalante I can respect, but Clark carried a baseball bat around the school halls. If he used it, he'd be jailed. In real life, just carrying the bat would get him fired. How many "Escalantes" do you have working where you work? Are you one of them? "There's no one so blind as those who will not see". Nice chatting with you all.

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