Friday, July 10, 2015

Good Teachers and Bad Teachers

Miss Trunchable, who made mean Mrs. Moore seem like the Mary Poppins of teachers

Matilda's teacher, who was kind, loved children,  and made learning fun

Today I had a bried conversation with Jiudge Alex. /it took place in the direct message section of Twitter, but noting either of us said seemed inherently prvate, so I shall recount the conversation here. if i'm wrong, Judge alex, and you intended for your comments to be confidential, i apologize and guarantee it won't happen again, especially and you happen to find out that I quoted or paraphrased you in my blog. i'll even take the blog down so that my millions of readers [sarcasm font] won't all see it. i didn't get the idea, though, that anything you said was private.
We were discussing the situation of convlicct between teachers and students.  I asked a somewhat rehtorical wuestion as to whether  it was, in general, better to support the teacher or to suppor the student in a disagreement. of course we all know that this must be taken o a case-by=case basis. My feeling is, however, that except in situations where a parent has reason to suspect that a teacher is abusove, unprofessional,  or incompetent, it's probably best for a child in most caases to believe the teacher is being supported even if a parent is working with the teacher behind the scenes to make the classroom a more level playing field for his or her child.

Judge Alex commented that, just as in the cases of his litigants who were landlords and tenants, there is usually plenty of blame to go around between teachers and students. This may very well be true. It's probably truer in some regions than in others. I know nothing of  Florida's public educational system. My dad was educated there from eighth grade through high school, but he attended parochial school. So parehaps Floroda has the worst teachers in the nation, and Judge Alex is speaking of the situation from that perspective. Note: if you are a Florida teacher, please do not take offense. You may be the shining stars among educators on our planet as far as I know. I was merely throwing the possibility of the quality of Florida's  teachers impacting Judge's perspective regarding whose side to take -- the teacher's or the student's -- in a dispute.

I then commented that it seemed as though the judge wasn't necessarily very pro-teacher.  He answered that he is a big fan of GOOD teachers, who provide a tremendous service to society at relatively low pay. It is bad or abusive teachers for whom he had no use.. I can find nothing there with which to disagree. I doubt anyone could. Good teachers are a mensch to society. Poor teachers are a menace to the educational system and to society. I suspect we could all agree upon that. As a side note, some parents define "good teacher" as someone who gives straight A's to their children, though I doubt that Judge Alex fits into that category.

The question becomes  (and Judge Alex didn't answer this, because my Twitter DM conversations with him might go on forever if one or the other of us -- usually him -- didn't stop them.  Everything has to end eventually, and he usually eventually ends our twitter conversations, though I have done so myself on occasion. I'm a pest, though not a complete and total one) what is the ration of good teachers to poor teachers in our society today?   The answer likely varies from state to state, from community to community, from public to private school, and from preschool all the way through college.

I will venture that for myself,  I had 39 teachers in grades kindergarten through  twelve.  Four ranged from incompetent to blatantly abusive and terrible. The other thirty-five ranged from competent to exceotionally good. I had the advantage from the second half of fifth grade (once I left the clutches of the despicable Mrs. Moore) all the way through high school, of being in what may very well be one of the nation;s best public achool systems. Much of this had to do with the clientele, as the district was located in a small town which also house a moderately prestigious university.  An educated clientele tends to draw good teachers for several reasons. More often than not, the communityn puts a higher premium on education and on quality teachers than does the average community, which means they elect school board members who support paying reasonable salaries for teachers. Another reason it was  (and still is) a good district is that educated and professionally successful parents in general expect their. children to go to school to learn in order to be successful. If one of them learns that his or her child is not putting forth his best effort or is experiencing ddifficulty in learning,, the parent usually takes matters into his or her own hands, and not usually by aproaching the teacher to blame him or her. Often private tutors are hired or the parents themselves work with their child to remediate any academic deficits.  This is not to say a parent even in the district of which I write will not question a teacher's policies, whether they be grading policies, disciplinary policies, or instructional strategies. It's just that the parents are involved and expect all parties - students, teachers, and administraotrs, to do their parts to ensure success for each student.

My personal ratio of goof teachers to poor teachers, which reduces very nearly to  9' to 1, may be artificially high because once i escaped the clutches of mrs. Moore, i enrolled in what may be one of the finest school districts in the nation, and remained there until high school graduation. Before i enrolled in the district  from which I ultimately graduated, the ratio of good to poor teachers was 5 to 2, which is not nearlyso impressive. two of those years were spent in Catholic school.

My experience with parochial schools (I'm referring primarily to Catholic schools, because that's what I attended; I understand that there are other relifious school whose standards are considerably more lax than are those of Catholic schools) is that, in general, they lack the very best and the very poorest teachers.  They generally lack the very top tier of teachers (there are exceptions; some teachers who could work anywhere choose to teach there for religious reasons)  because parochial teacher salaries are not typically as high as those for their public school counterparts.  This may not be the case in the ost exclusive parochial schools in large cities.  Parochial schools lack the worst of the poor teachers because if a teacher is really bad, that teacher can be fired usually without due process. If a teacher isn't performing his or her job up to par, the principal can just say "Sayonara" and tell the teacher to load u his or her belongongs when he or she leaves at the conclusion of a day, or even sooner if it's REALLY bad. Parochial school teachers are  not always even fully credentialed for the state in which they teach when they begin teaching for a parochial school. It's typically required that they take courses toward completing a credential, but the diocese may not be terrible concerned if non-credntialed teacher takes his or her time in completing the credentialing coursework, because the teachers who are not fully credentialed do not have to be paid as much as those who are fully credentialed. Cost-saving measures are of paramount importance in most parochial schools.

Catholic schools are able to accomplish what they do on a smaller budget than is available to public schools for a few reasons. A very important reason is that they may turn down any child's application or remove the child from attendance at their school for virtually any reason.  Unless enrollment is very low and they're having to dig students up from under rocks and enroll them in order to garner sufficient revenue to function, If a child is known to be a behavior problem, his or her application wil likely be turned down. if a child becomes a problem at Catholic school, unless his or her parent is very important in the school advisory board, the local Catholic community, is close friends with the parish priest, or donates scads of money, he or she will be invited to leave.  Furthermore, if a child exhibits learning disabilities or other academic areas of weakness, it will either be recommended to the parent that the child would be better served by the public school or the parent, if he or she does not take the hint, will be told outrightly that his or her child isn't a good match for that school and should enroll elsewhere. furthermore, parents tend to value what they pay for more than wat is free,or at least what is funded from their tax dollars whether the avail themselves of the servicces or not.  the parent tends to think that because they're paying extra for it, the quality of education MUST be better than that of the neighborhood public school. (In someneighborhoods, they're right.) regardless, if a parent values it more and is paying for it, he or she is likely to ensure that his or her money is not wasted by ensuring that his or her child completes his work and pays attention in class.) finally, there's an element of homogeneity in the average catholic school class that is not present in the nighboerhood public school class of the same level. the teacher can teach at a certain level, and mastery of the material is attainable for virtually every student if not absolutely every student. of course there will be a few astudeent who are significantly brighter than the mean. They're expected to have special projects on which they can work when they c0omplete their regular classwork before their classmates do so. they certainly don't hinder the rest of the class. in some cases, they're sent to higher grade classrooms for specific subjects. Such practice isn't so common in public schools.

i totally agree with judge Alex that good teachers should be valued and poor or abusive teachers should be deep-sixed. I wonder if his words were most heavily influenced by his own educational career, but those of his own children, or by teachers with whom he may have dealt in the court system whn he was a circxuit court judge. i don't know if he ever presided over family court or juvenile court or whatever it is that florida calls the court system when it adjuducates cases related to minors.

If he's referring to his own experience as a student,  I can certainly see where he is coming from. My mom is only a few years younger than he is. She says that teachera back in the day were able to teach more easily in part because their curriclum was more scripted ("turn to page 96, class") and  teachers had better control of classes, in part because children were better behaved in general and had more fear of/respect for authority, but also because teachers had more free reign to be both physically and verbally abusive. Children from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak, weren't necessarily treated as well as were those from higher socio-economic backgrounds.  Furthermore, teachers didn't address bullying back in the day,  my mom says. /They tended either to turn a blind eye to it or, in some really bad cases, to join in with the majority in picking on the bullied child.  The prevailing school of thought was that of a child was being picked on,  he or she was probably doing something to deserve it.

If Judge Alex has any issues with the way his own children were taught  --  and he never stated or even implied  that such was the case  --  part of the problem might have been the trendy nature of education. If one teaches for long,  one will apparently see a metaphorical pendulum perenially swinging back and forth. . (Who'a talking about "No Child Left Behind" anymore? And what about Goals 2000 before that? Hardly anyone remembers that one. Now it's Common Core, but this, too shall pass.)  Teachers are thrown from one program to the next so frequently that some are confused at times, and the students suffer. 

Furthermore, such is the nature of today's children that in almost every public school classroom, the is a bona fide problem child who seriously interrupts the teacher's arttempts to teach. Specialists try to help, but there's often a limit to what can be done. problem studnets generally have more rights than do the children who are in class to learn. Moreover, the rest of the class and the teacher are lucky if it's only one seriously troubled student.  In some exclusive neighborhoods, a teacher and class may be lucky enough not to have a severly disruptive student, but one cannot count on it.

I think that, for both the protection of students and  teachers, cameras should be installed wherever students and teachers are together. This should be done with full knowledge of parents, teachers, and students.  It wouldn't be great for a teacher to be adjusting her bra  during recess  while an administrator was watching on closed circuit T. V.  Perhaps cameras should even be in the student bathrooms but with no view of  inside the stalls or of the urinals. or  My mom says she believes every teacher would be a more effective teacher if he or she knew everything he or she said or did was being recorded on camera.   Cameras would potentially protect students who are suffering many forms of abuse, and they would also protect teachers from false allegations. In my perfect world, if an accusation of impropriety, abuse, or incompetence were made against a teacher, a panel of teachers, administrators, and perhaps  parents randomly selected from another non-neighboring state, all unknown to anyone in the district undergoing the personnel issue, would view the footage and decide that the teacher should either be fired, reprimanded, or exonerated.  This could never be implemented in education, though, because it makes too much sense.  One consistent trend in education is the overwhelming tendency to take simplest matters and make them as complicated as possible.


  1. Interesting. I wonder how cameras in the classroom might affect student behavior.

  2. Cameras in a school is a great idea. Many public places have cameras. Nobody has to watch them. They can just be viewed whenever an incidence happens. Do you know what country Bill Gates thinks has the best education? Israel. Microsoft Israel has created a lot of their best work like they created Windows XP.

    Also reading or education is a part of the Jewish religion/culture. The story goes that a Jew was given a tour of heaven by a heavenly host. When it was over, the guy said to the heavenly host that it appears like heaven is filled with scholars. The host said that he misunderstood what he saw. It is not that the scholars are in heaven but heaven is in the scholars. I hope that your blog does get millions of readers someday, Alexis.