Saturday, April 30, 2011

Teaching Isn't As Simple As It Appears

"Teaching has never been the cushy job imagined by the public, which mistakenly believes that a teacher’s day ends when school lets out. People outside the field often do not seem to understand that teachers spend hours of additional time making lesson plans, reviewing homework, grading tests.

The profession also suffers from a lack of respect. Parents do not encourage their children to become teachers, and college graduates from our premier institutions view teaching as something to do for a couple of years after graduation before switching into more laudable and lucrative fields.

With increasing pressure on the educational system to meet the demands of a shifting labor market, more and more curriculum mandates and high-stakes testing make it difficult for teachers to be creative in the classroom....

There is research on  the extraordinary number of decisions that a teacher has to make at any given moment —- more decisions minute-by-minute than a brain surgeon. The most conservative estimate from this data has teachers making approximately 130 decisions per hour during a six-hour school day, and this reflects only those decisions made within the classroom. This is extraordinarily daunting and often intimidating for new teachers. It makes support from administrators and colleagues so vital."
(Source: "Keeping New Teachers From Dropping Out," Ellen Meyers, Gotham Gazette, February 20, 2006.)

On April 30, 2011 Thomas M. Stephens wrote an article for the Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) entitled "Teaching Isn't As Simple As It Appears." Thomas M. Stephens is professor emeritus in the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University and is executive director emeritus of the School Study Council of Ohio.

Stephens points out the simple fact that every good teacher knows--teaching is not as simple as it appears. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they know how to be a good teacher because they spent several years of their life as a student critiquing their own teachers. As any teacher knows, being a student in a classroom is a world apart from being the day-to-day educator responsible for the safety, growth, development and education of a group of young people. Teachers make on average between 1000 and 1500 decisions a day [Good and Brophy (2008) and Murray (1986)]. As teachers gain more experience, they are better able to recognize patterns and make these decisions more effectively and quickly. A quality teacher training program, provides future teachers with the opportunities to study the current research on best practices for classroom management, instructional techniques and effective assessments. Studies consistently show that teachers who receive a degree from an accredited college of education and complete a rigorous student teaching experience are much better prepared to enter a classroom and more effective (Teach For America: A Review of the Evidence, Julian Vasquez Heilig of the University of Texas at Austin and Su Jin Jez, Ph.D. California State University, Sacramento: June 2010)

Here is a portion of Stephens' article from the Columbus Dispatch:

"He [Ohio Governor John Kasich] and other public-education "reformers" are transferring millions of tax dollars from public schools to less scrutinized charters and private schools. They are dissing classroom teachers by taking away both their dignity and their voices at the bargaining table, while watering down teacher-license requirements and dancing to the tune of the highly paid elites from tax-exempt foundations....

Professional teachers know what, how and when to individualize. Attention can be increased through stimulating teaching; problem-solving is related to reading comprehension and mathematical reasoning.

They plan and work as teams - thus, individual incentives for "successful" teachers is a bad joke. Planning is intense and time-consuming. On average, these teachers work an additional four hours beyond their in-class teaching day, and many more beyond the school year. Specific children get some instruction in different classes, through special tutoring or through differentiated assignments. Teachers swap classes for particular lessons and for other types of team instruction.

Formal learning, as with other life-experiences, requires socialization and skills for working with and accommodating others' needs and interests. Classroom instruction occurs in a social context, and social skills must be taught as needed....

There's much more to be learned from these and other classroom teachers. Let's hope that our policymakers start listening to them very soon."