Let Teachers Teach

Daily Prompt We Can Be Taught! What makes a teacher great?

We know the answer to what makes a teacher great. We’ve always known the answer to this, now just get the government and its testing fetish out of the way of good teachers. When you’re done with that, remove the profit motive from public higher educations. “Full Time Equivalents” do not a college or university make.

Beginning in elementary school, start teaching people things they can USE so by the time they finish the obligatory 13 (that’s THIRTEEN) years of public school they are qualified to work at a REAL job. Establish an apprenticeship system for students who have neither the aptitude for nor the interest in academia. Eliminate remedial classes from higher education. Instead, see that those who graduate high school are READY for the next step in their lives.

Reserve university for specialized fields that require higher education. Throw out over-paid tenured faculty who don’t really TEACH anything and replace them with tenured-faculty who DO teach. Pay teachers a living wage. Drastically reduce or eliminate altogether dependence on “lecturers” “adjuncts” and “contingent” faculty.

Provide teachers the tools they need to do their jobs — and one of those tools is TIME. Don’t harry them with reports, exams, data requests, constant self-analyses and observations. Let them teach. Treat teachers with the respect they deserve because MOST people cannot even BEGIN do what teachers do.

You asked…


30 thoughts on “Let Teachers Teach

  1. I hate to say this, but in a some cases there are problems with the person in front of the class. However, that goes back to the structural issues you mentioned. Pay teachers better and you’ll get better people entering the profession. (As it stands now, teachers with higher degrees, even if it’s from a for-profit institution, get more pay and that system often prevents people with higher degrees from becoming teachers because a lot of systems won’t hire someone more expensive when they don’t have to.)

    Also, everyone’s favorite chili pepper “hotness” rating needs to be carried over to all levels of education. That sort of evaluation improves pedagogical quality more than anything else.

    • I agree with you — there are bad teachers and in the last two years of my career I was one. I got to experience how absolutely painful it is to stand in front of a bunch of students and hate being there.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “for profit” schools. Places like Univ. of Phoenix and Natl. University don’t pay well, but they make a lot of money. Private universities depend a great deal on fund-raising and high tuition, but they generally give something worth having to their graduates, even if it’s only a prestigious degree.

  2. I’m surprised anyone survives our educational system with anything resemblance intellectual curiosity alive. The powers that be seem intent on turning school into a soul-crushing experience for students and teachers. Glad — SO glad — I’m not in school today.

  3. Me and my kids have it all behind us, but I was always satisfied with the Swiss system. I was perhaps lucky that my kids went through it all more or less successfully. I grew up at a time when the classes were an average of 50 pupils in the east End of London, due to the baby boom in 1946 when the soldiers returned from the war. It was the survival of the fittest, but I cannot blame the teachers. They were overstrained with the pressure of dealing with so many children and unfortunately it was the weaker children that suffered.

  4. BRAVO !!! And words like these from people who actually know from experience are truly valuable … but … they fall on deaf ears if they even reach educational legislators …

    • There’s a movement that’s been started by parents to change the system of testing testing testing. I think that’s exactly where it has to start so I have a little hope at this point.

  5. Oh, my! Thank you for all the great things about teachers. I are one/was one. I still count myself as “good.” Aren’t I still good? Yup, when I started at $4300 a year, with five classes of 9th graders, with 40 (!) in a class, I do not know how I ever succeeded. I was young; I made my way, mostly alone. (No mentors nor in-service.) After it was all over, after 40 years, I retired at a salary of $54,000. What do you think? Enough?

    • I loved teaching until the final two years and in that time I was no longer a good teacher and didn’t care any more. I had pure contempt for my students and the people for whom I worked. That’s why I retired as soon as I got the opportunity. No, you were not paid enough. I made more, but that’s because I worked two or three jobs every semester. California is just so expensive you need (even as a single person) to be a two-earner family. But, it turned out for the best as it meant my social security is somewhat OK combined with my retirement. I’m content with the end of the story and grateful for having had 30 years of working in a job I believed in with all my heart and did well. That’s a lot more than many people have at the end of the day.

  6. Terrific post Martha and I agree with all you said. I’m sorry teachers are beleaguered with tons of paper work. When our school swapped over to computerised reporting, rather than the hand written version, the parents learnt far less. Ticking boxes and less individual comments became the norm. That didn’t mean teachers had less to do though. Individual programs, (this was special education), took up masses of time. It was the face to face that was so important and teaching the necessities of life that were essential. Time and dedication are crucial. ❤

  7. Absolutely. But I have a couple of questions. Who will decide who are the faculty that DON’T teach from the faculty that DO? How does the school rate a teacher? I don’t think the SOLs are doing it; they are just making kids learn a bunch of facts for the end-of-the-school-year test. Also, tell me why faculty should be tenured. A teacher can be good for a number of years, and then isn’t any more, but they will stay on because they are tenured, right? I have some strong emotions around tenure because I worked at a public university (VCU) in an administrative office, where the managers were considered faculty, and basically tenured because it was so hard to get rid of them without paying them their full salary for an entire year with accompanying benefits, so there are some ineffective (and harmful) administrative faculty who can just show up physically every day, and will never get fired. Thank you for the post. While reading it, I was thinking this describes pretty much every system in place in today’s world: lack of accountability.

    • A faculty member who teaches one class and does committee work etc for there rest of their income is not a teacher. Tenure is only a higher education thing. I can’t speak well to what happens in elementary and secondary school because I haven’t taught there, but we all managed fine back in my day without exit tests or constant standardized assessments but I’m going to suggest that the teachers were better, had a sounder and more thorough education themselves. It was a noble career — especially for women, that is true — and people were proud to be teachers. My high school English teachers had full-on classical educations. Imagine.

      SLOs are great — every good teacher from the beginning of time has established those for his/herself and his/her class. Even students like to know where they are going in the class. It’s when they’re turned into bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo they’re bad things.

      Faculty should be tenured because that’s the only way they can be part of an academic community. Tenure’s not bad. It could be overhauled to require more accountability and more emphasis could be put on teaching, but in and of itself it’s a good thing.

      Teaching as I did for my whole career worked for me but it wasn’t great. I had a series of three year contracts. I made it work for me because I knew it was as good as it was going to get, but I would like to have had tenure. Teaching is a lonely job and tenure would have allowed me to be part of a colleagial community instead of a person on the fringes with little control over what I taught etc.

      Managers are not faculty and shouldn’t be regarded as such. They have other great abilities but should have completely different contractual relationships with a school, more like business managers have. One horrible abuse at the university where I last taught was that to get rid of a bad football coach, the university paid him $4m. Meanwhile, I’m limping along on $4k/month (before taxes etc.)

      • Thanks for replying. “Managers are not faculty and shouldn’t be regarded as such”. Exactly. Academic faculty should be treated better. They are what bring the students to the school. But administrative faculty are no more related to revenue than the administrative people below them. I don’t know why Virginia public universities are set up this way, and if other states do the same thing. And the fact that our taxes are paying these people adds to the ridiculousness of it. We need a total overhaul, that’s for sure.

      • There’s so much BS in higher ed. I taught at a college where there was a movement to re-classified “classified” employees (non-teaching) so they wouldn’t feel marginalized. Considering that their prospects of promotion and salary were a lot better than those of faculty I wonder if they felt “marginalized” at all. I’m so glad I retired…

  8. Martha, your post is right on! I know you have been through a lot in your teaching years. California’s educational system at all levels is so broken–going for stats and dollars. As part-time faculty, I know there is use for us, especially in my field (recreation, parks & tourism) where they use practitioners to teach specialty courses. In our case, they also use PT faculty to teach GE courses in the department that was always struggling. Since I am not a full-time instructor, these opportunities are great for me. But I feel lucky in my circumstances. However, I know universities could do waaaayyy better.

    • In my perfect education system, what you teach wouldn’t be part of the university. 😉 And in my perfect system (which would be retroactive to the 70s) I’d go to YOUR school instead of university and I’d be a rafting, climbing, horseback-riding-across Mongolia adventure travel guide instead of an English teacher. Good god… I’d probably write a lot more interesting blog, too!

      But, the “struggle” that higher education has been facing forever is partly the result of bad choices — at SDSU some years back, in order to get rid of a bad football coach, they gave him a $4 million severance package, a house and a car (or something in addition to the money). How does that figure? I can ALMOST understand hiring a coach at a figure like that, but FIRING one? That was $4m + paid out to prevent a lawsuit.

  9. […] Through PurgatoryTo the Teacher Who Gave Me Confidence Izzy-grabs-lifeBecause He Loves Me I’m a Writer, Yes I AmLet Teachers Teach That’s My PhilosophyInspired Learning Weird And WonderfulWhat Makes A Teacher Great? […]

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