aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

On teachers and teaching

I have always said that the trouble with most "Gifted and Talented" classes in public schools is that they are not taught by gifted and talented people. In my experience, most G&T programs are led by those teachers with the most seniority who can thereby wash their hands of the struggling students (i.e., those who are not fun to teach). By the same token, those who set the standards and conditions for students (and teachers) to meet are rarely those who have ever taught -- or been successful at teaching -- those standards, under those conditions. This applies as much to leaders of teachers' organizations as to politicians and bureaucrats.

The first requirement for creating educated persons is that we should seek out educated persons to teach. This disqualifies many public school majors, who as a group display the lowest GPAs of any undergraduate field. Hey, I've known professors leading Teacher Education programs who were basically illiterate outside their narrow fields of specialization. (Some of the best educated persons I've ever known were some working class women in my inner city parish in the 1980s, many of whom didn't finish high school, but who remembered everything they ever learned, read the newspaper every day, worked at all kinds of jobs, raised their kids, voted in every election, and went to church every Sunday.)

The second requirement for creating educated persons is that we choose from among the ranks of those successfully educated only those who are capable of creating and sustaining the right sort of teacher-student relationship. Teaching is not about techniques or technology. It is primarily a relational thing where a person capable of explaining something and a person in need of explanations come together and the desire to understand is fostered, so that the attempt to explain reaches its desired end.

There are great teachers out there, from whom one learns fly-fishing, or knot-tying, or how to buy a new suit. And there are great teachers from whom one acquires a philosophy, a religion, or the building blocks of a happy marriage. There are even great teachers who can show you how to dissect a frog and give you a glimmer of why that might eventually benefit you. Most of the great teachers we remember weren't in a classroom, though some were. And then there are the legions of drones who discovered that playing the school game will get you a regular paycheck.

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