Sunday, November 7, 2010

Taylor Mali on what teachers make...this is funny!

Waiting for whom?

So, unless you live under a rock, you have mostly heard of or seen the new documentary, "Waiting for Superman." Now, as a disclaimer, I have yet to view the film. However, I have the show on Oprah about it, as well as reading myriad of articles/reviews around it.

Several of the ideology behind the movie I can agree with. There are teachers who have been teaching for too long and, well...suck. They should not be teaching, but can also not be fired. At least not very easily. We have all had these sorts of teachers in school. You know, the ones that fell asleep during class, simply assigned a chapter to read with question before plopping down behind their desk. Or maybe you had the token teacher. The one who would slip a bit of whiskey into his or her morning coffee. And, I agree...these teachers should be fired. But we all know that. Nothing new here.
Most teachers, however, work extremely hard and care deeply about their lessons and students. It is not as though people teach for the money.

The part of the movie that I highly disagree with is how much blame people seem to place on the schools, teachers, and administrators. Constantly, during the movie we (the United States of America) are compared to other countries. Countries who are (gasp) out-performing us. The people who bear the grunt of the blame for this? Teachers.

Where is the part where parents are held accountable for their children? Has it never occurred to ANYBODY that maybe in these other countries parents read to their children, teach them behavioral and social rules, help with homework (or at least provide a quiet place to study), and emphasize the importance of a good education? I am guessing that they do.

As a teacher, I witness the lack of parental support often. This is not only at the low-income school I work at now, but also in middle-upper class schools I have worked at in the past. Parents excuse their kids from school to go shopping or because they want to sleep-in, have their kids play video games after school, and don't seem to teach or emphasize respect or good behavior. Most kids today seem to think they will just "get" good jobs and don't understand that this takes hard work.

Last week, I had a new student in my room. After reading her "getting to know you" letter, I learned that when she is older, she would like to be a stripper. Apparently, her dad suggested this as a career. During this same day, I had two boys in the office for fighting before school, four kids absent, and three kids walk into class late. At a school slightly north of mine in Stanwood, Washington many students were discovered to be addicted to heroin. Heroin! And, it is the teachers faults our kids are not performing better than their peers in other countries?

Charter schools are focused on in "Superman" as the solution to all of the problems. I do not think that is the case. They are not the only solution, at least not in my opinion.
While I am sure some are well-run, I have heard of many that under-pay staff, do not give teachers time to plan, and do not provide the necessary support (such as para educators). You could not pay me enough money to teach from 7am or 7pm, which many of these schools have their staff doing. Nor would I want to have a cell phone that students could reach me on. I have a life, I am not a parent, and it is NOT my job to parent your kids.

Furthermore, the 5 kids featured in Superman do have the support at home. Their parents care enough to research and become aware of these great charter schools in their areas. They did not show the rest of the population. Those students whose parents are not involved. Where were they in this movie? They were not in it, probably because it would have taken the blame off of the teachers and placed some of it back where it belongs. With parents and the communities.
So, what is my solution you may ask? For starters, I think parents also need to be held accountable for their children's scores, if I am going to be. How this would work, I am not sure. Also, more programs are needed for preschool. Studies show that children in preschool preform better later on than those who do not attend. The attendance policies should be stricter. It is not a 10-year-old's fault if his parents are not waking them up for school. The parents should be held accountable.

Classes for parents offered through the schools could also help, as well as more counselors (including drug/alcohol counselors) for students. Many of these programs have been cut to fund more math training for teachers. I am pretty sure kids will start to perform better in math once their parents are there to support them and they are at school on-time. Everyday.

Schools in the inner-city are underfunded and often lack the necessary supplies and materials for their teachers. Because of this, many teachers are reluctant to teach in these areas. These are the areas where attendance if poor, their is a lack of parental involvement, and the turn-over rate in both students and staff can be extremely high. Finding a solution to this would help immensely.
In most of these countries the US is compared with, not all students are taught as if they are ALL going to college. In high school, they can decide which track they are on. One that is college-based, and the other, more vocational-based. The result is: more interest in the classes, higher graduation with USEFUL skills, and the better chance of finding a job and contributing to society. Perhaps we might like to try this system here?

I think there is a solution to the problems with education, and we can make improvements as a country. However, teachers and schools are not the only issue. Parents also need to be factored into the equation and need to be held accountable as well.