Not so much in defense of teachers

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post defending teachers.  I still agree with my post, but I do feel that some of my viewpoints have been refined slightly. First, I feel that it is very very politically incorrect to criticize teachers. We must always acknowledge how great they are, how they are in the trenches, how hard they work, and on and on. But, this isn’t always the case. There are many, if not most, teachers who have really lost sight of the goal of their vocation and who have certainly lost the passion and enthusiasm for it.  And, so, I will not strive to be politically correct in this post. As such, I will likely offend a few people and raise a few eyebrows. But, as long as we tread lightly on this topic, educators will keep going down the same path, believing the lip service about how brave and courageous they are, and how we all admire them.

Now that I’m done warning you, let’s get down to it, shall we? I had a slightly disturbing interchange with a few teachers a couple of weeks ago. It was in response to this article on the detriments of grading. I posted it on my Facebook page, and the discussion ensued. I was glad that some teachers were reading it, and I did get some in agreement with the article. But, others thought that grading was not only necessary, but it is good and useful. As they said, it helped assess the children to make sure they were reaching the standards set forth by the state.

Here is where my stomach dropped. This is how these teachers see their jobs. Not to inspire or to expose children to the world; not even to educate them or facilitate their learning, at least not in true sense of the word. No, their job is to make sure kids can regurgitate facts well enough to pass the tests so they get a so-called “good grade” and we can give them our rubber stamp of approval that they have attained the standard set forth by the state.  I’m sure they wouldn’t characterize it this way, but that’s how I see it. In my view, grades are only an assessment of how well a student has learned to play the school game, not what they have learned. Grades, along with standards, tests, curriculum, assessments, conferences, IEPs, and all the rest, have really served to convolute what education is supposed to be about – educating.  Teachers who vehemently defend this system are, in my estimation, blind. They make work tirelessly and deserve pats on the back because of that, but they are working blindly toward a flawed end. And, that makes them worthy more of pity than of gratefulness.

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2 Comments on "Not so much in defense of teachers"

  1. Queenie
    02/12/2009 at 10:47 pm Permalink

    Reading this makes me think that we have to highlight teachers who are doing what many unschoolers and homeschoolers are looking for. Schools that value children, listen to them, and enable them to explore ideas and concepts in a natural and authentic manner. I must admit that had it not been for a gift that I believe God gave me-I would be teaching the same way that so many others are teaching. Even when I was teaching in the other paradigm I knew something was wrong- At that time I didn’t have a label for it, but now I know that it was a desire for something deeper, some real, something that would have a lasting impression of positive on children. Don’t give up hope on us teachers. I know some of the most dynamic, fully present, and awe inspiring teachers who are working with and towards the philosophical premise of educating for freedom and humanization.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Cassi
    02/12/2009 at 11:21 pm Permalink

    I certainly agree with you. My original post in defense of teachers was all about how teachers are well-meaning and many want to make a difference in the system, but don’t know how. I just got frustrated with my conversation with a few teachers who seem completely in the dark. I was a teacher in a past life, and felt the same as you did. I wanted to strike out on my own, I knew there must be a better way, I just couldn’t name it. I personally found unschooling via a philosophy of education course that exposed me to free schools, then I stumbled upon unschooling a few years later. I would hope I would have found it another way eventually, but quite possibly not. I’m just hoping that more teachers are able to open their minds to freedom in learning and are willing to break a few rules to make that happen in their classrooms.


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