Why I’m Glad I Found Larry Strauss

This man says so much of what I want to say, but much more eloquently than I ever could.  Anyone who wants to know what it’s really like to work in education today should be reading his stuff.  Here’s an excerpt from a recent blog post he wrote about the difference between accountability (a major buzzword in education right now) and trust.

Many of our best students are alienated and demoralized by a system preoccupied with restricting them while many of our best teachers are frustrated by mandates about teaching that come from people who don’t understand how children learn. The teachers we want working with our children are the ones who hold themselves accountable much more than any legislation ever could. They work countless extra hours for which they are not paid and agonize over pedagogical failures no one else would ever even notice. But they aren’t trusted–and that’s a tragic disrespect of our most valuable resource.

This describes so wonderfully how I feel much of the time.  I know that I am doing my best.  People who know me know that I am doing my best.  My students know that I am doing my best and that, in turn, I expect them to their best.  And yet I have a 65 question multiple-choice test covering over 80 content standards that I am responsible for teaching hanging over my head.  To the people in charge, it doesn’t matter how much literary analysis my students do.  It doesn’t matter what they learned about life from reading The Outsiders. It doesn’t matter how much their reading and writing has improved, despite all the constant interruptions.  All that matters is whether or not they can answer those specific multiple-choice questions correctly.

I will be among the first to say that there are bad teachers who are not doing their jobs.  I see it and hear about it from students every day.  But wouldn’t our time and resources be better utilized figuring out why those teachers are bad and seeking to encourage and help them, rather than beating everyone over the head with an impossible, and many times mysterious, absolute bar?

It seems like education has been in the news quite a bit recently, especially with the State of the Union address this week.  For those of you who are interested, here a couple of links that give perspectives you probably won’t hear on the news.  I don’t agree with everything they say, but they do have a lot of good points.

Larry Strauss – Why Teachers Go Bad

The Answer Sheet – Obama’s faulty education logic: What he said and failed to say

Shaun Johnson – What If We Treated Doctors The Way We Treat Teachers?

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1 Comment

  1. Dad

     /  January 29, 2011

    Good articles. I liked this:
    “And it is far too early to say whether states have really raised their standards for teaching and learning or whether they have simply changed them. Declaring victory before victory is actually at hand is generally a bad idea.”
    It made me think about the meetig you went to where they talked about swapping principals and teachers in two schools. Seems like rearranging, not raising. Bush got balsted for “Mission Accomplished” – this looks a lot like the same thing.

    What If We Treated Doctors The Way We Treat Teachers?
    That’s exactly what Obamacare attempts to do!


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