Monday, February 6, 2012

Bad Teachers or a Bad Model

While I like books on homeschooling, I often read books about education in general or economics.  I recently read this one:

I never see Dr. Steve Perry on CNN because we don't have cable, but I thought it would be interesting to see what he has to say.  Warning, I am not a snob about foul language, but there is a bit too much in this book.  While not over the top conversationally, it feels strange in print.

He does make some excellent points about teachers behaving as professionals.  Instead of whining about the kinds of kids they get in terms of poverty and home life, if they were good teachers they would be able to get good teaching results regardless.  In some ways I agree with this because if you turn your kids over to certified professionals full-time, it seems shameful to not be guaranteed reasonable results.  He even goes so far as to talk about suing school districts over poor results which is not a bad idea.

That said, is it really that simple?  While he isn't wrong, everyone knows excellent teachers who work 10 or 12 hour days regardless of their union contract or poor pay in the case of private schools.  They certainly do far better than bad teachers proving competency does matter, but even in their classes there are still a few students who struggle at times.  Can even the best teacher follow up and guarantee success for twenty or more students?

It seems to be a tall order.  A talented teacher can work his or her butt off and not necessarily get through to all students.  I, as a homeschool mother, don't work any harder than my conventional school parent counterparts (following up on homework, meeting with teachers, calling about a bus problem or bully takes more time than people acknowledge), but am getting far better results than the schools (so far).

Am I a great teacher? No, far from it.  Again, I don't work that hard at homeschooling - for many reasons I can't.  The self-pacing, low stress, and resulting high motivation of my kids take care of all of it.  When will everyone get off the merry-go-round and see that the model is to blame and not necessarily the people?  Sure, there are plenty of incompetent professionals in education, but by focusing on that everyone just stays wedded to the model when it should get thrown out.

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