Archive for November, 2009

Thoughts on Being a Teacher


If test scores are the measure of a teacher’s quality, then I am a great failure. The students that I have taught in the past 15 years did not score well on ACT’s or ISAT’s. They probably left high school to get married or go to work in some menial job. A few will go to a community college to become trained in a trade of some sort. I feel I had as much a positive impact on these “kids” as I did with the super brains that I taught my first 15 years. The early years I guided young people to aspire to be doctors, lawyers and business owners. In my latter years, I helped young people become patients, clients and employees. I hope that I steered each group to discover something of themselves and be tolerant of the something in others. I hope that I offered an example of being a learner for life. What you do is not so important as how you do i

This is what makes a good teacher. Test scores are diagnostic tools to help teachers and administrators design ways of improving a child’s education. Every child is an individual. To apply test scores as a blanket to cover all students is ludicrous. Children not only learn differently but at different rates. This is not an earth-shattering concept. Parents take their babies to the doctor. The baby is weighed and measured. Some babies are shorter than others. As the doctors tell these parents, it is okay some babies are shorter than others. They may catch up later, they may not. Test scores are a measure too. Some kids may catch up later, some may not. That’s life. It does not mean you are deficient or abnormal. You are a part of the range. If the doctor notices no improvement over time, diagnostic tests might be in order. How does education handle this?

Education designs school improvement programs. Politicians, local school boards and administrators incorporate these into the schools. It often takes years for new programs to installed in school systems. Change in education has been traditional slow. As frustrating as this can be, it often proves a good filtering system. Beneficial alterations survive the quick fix excitement. Consider the following partial list of programs:

  • Behavior objectives
  • Programed learning
  • Learning packets
  • Self paced learning
  • Barrier-less schools
  • Big schools
  • Little schools
  • Little schools in big schools
  • School Improvement plans (SIP’s)
  • Outcome-based learning
  • Standards
  • Integrated learning
  • Hands-on
  • Constructivism
  • Piaget
  • NCLB

Education is always searching for improvements and new approaches. This is a good thing. Education has never been stagnant. It is dynamic and evolving. Good teachers are able to adapt to these demands. Good teachers will always create a classroom filled with opportunities to learn. Good teachers recognize that students have different learning styles. Like these learning styles, teachers have a variety of teaching styles. There is nothing wrong with this. The driving question in education is what makes a certain teacher so great? Its his or her style. It’s the climate they establish within their classroom. Teachers are not robots. They relate to their students and motivate them. They offer a path with a light to seek. The means of achieving that end might be wildly different for each student but the good teacher is able to encourage and lead his or her students.

I come from Chicago area. Like so many large cities and small, the news media feeds us a daily diet of death, beatings and violence. I see innocent children shot or beaten and I feel pain. I see the violent beating of a high school student with a crowd watching and wonder why. I read of a young girl raped with a crowd of voyeurs cheering the events. Someone points to the schools as a the source of the problem or the means of the solution. Schools have always been the natural place to solve society’s problems. Nuclear bomb drills, immunization requirements, school breakfasts, free lunches, buses to integrate, driver education, good health, test scores: These all had a basis in a need to try to improve a social issue. In most cases, the programs were underfunded or vaguely designed. Measuring the impact of these programs are unclear. There are still sick children who are hungry. There are still segregated neighborhoods and poverty. There are bad drivers and obese youngsters. We still do these in hopes that they will have some impact. We will create other programs in the future to solve other issues. There is nothing wrong with attempting to improve life. The press, politicians and public need to realize that schools are doing the best that they can.

I am retired now and I miss the interaction in the classroom. I miss the challenge. I miss the banter of learning. I have been fortunate to have touched so many lives. I have roller-coasted from one end of the bell to the other. It has been a great trip. What I have discovered over all those years is that its not the test scores or the honors or trophies or ribbons: it’s the light in a child’s face when they finally get it. It’s the smile a kids shares with his classmate. It’s the voice of a student who once stood silent. It is great to have been a teacher!



November 9, 2009 at 11:46 pm Leave a comment

November 2009
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