Thursday, March 24, 2011

Are You a Good Teacher?

I'm having a few Not-So-Random-Thoughts about our school district's view of what constitutes good teaching.

First let me be perfectly clear. This is not a slight on our school district's Teacher of the Year. I'm sure she is a fabulous teacher. 

Take a look at her bulletin board.


"FCAT Skills" 

FCAT = Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (our State high-stakes test)

FCAT Skills = Test Skills

This begs me two questions:


  1. What does this say about the things our district is forcing our "good" teachers to teach? and at what/whose expense?

    OR
  2. What is our district's criteria for "good" teaching?
So, are you a good teacher?

15 comments:

Maureen Devlin said...

"Are you a good teacher?" That's a question I ask myself continually as I make decision after decision in the classroom. We all want to be "good teachers" and I believe there are many, many ways to define "good teacher" starting with a positive relationship with children, optimal lesson planning/delivery, creating a positive, effective learning environment, knowing your content/process well, and the ability to motivate and inspire. A tall order for all of us. Just the fact that you're asking the question makes me believe that YOU are a good teacher.

Macs said...

Part 1:

As I look around my classroom, full of student projects, books and texts, I reflect on the past month’s events in Palm Beach county and it seems to me that we have forgotten the work it took to get where we are as an A district. The hard work that calls us to action, the dedication that TEACHERS can’t avoid to impact the lives of their students? The recent events that call into question the amount of pay verses the value placed on our public education system.

Consider this:

Does the custodial staff procure exam copies from publishers of text books that the district deems unworthy, just so their students can get a different point of view than the narrow minded publisher who must have and an “in” with the textbook committee 7 years ago?

Does the school secretary go to Barns and Noble bi-weekly to sneak (in order that her husband doesn’t find out that she spent another dime on her classroom) another fiction book into their classes “library” in order to spark the interest of the student who likes military history?


Does the cafeteria worker go to Office Max on the opposite pay days to buy more colored pens and paper so that her students can color code their notebooks and organizers for their units?

Does the aide in the library have to deal with phone calls from parents because their precious student has never received less than an A in their careers and I, as their teacher, am now tarnishing their child’s HPA.

Does the bookkeeper stay up at night fretting over the scores their students made on the exam the county made? The exam that is too specific, too nit picky, too slanted to be from the general standards the state has set?

Macs said...

Does the data clerk spend hours at home on their own computer uploading to their website kept only for their students? Does she dream of using YouTube, Wiki and Tooble with out having to figure out how to beat the system with a rigged phone or ripping software?

Does the technology support staff understand that the needs of the teachers has out paced his capability to support?

Does the attendance clerk spend $29 dollars each paycheck for membership into a union that has no power in a “right to work state?” Who has not negotiated a real bonus or step increase in over 5 years?

Does administration realize that we have been forced to get upgraded data plans and computers at home so that we can use things that are behind the firewall, once deemed inappropriate at school, in our classrooms as supplemental materials because so much of our materials are out dated?

Do the parents realize that we, teachers, can’t say no to the student who asks for extra help or a letter of recommendation? Do you realize that we give so much extra time that you can’t put a dollar amount on it?

Are any of the support staff BLAMED if the students don’t perform at the level we needed to obtain our A status? No? Why then are the teachers?

If we don’t motivate our students to perform on these tests, we are placed into more training, excuse me “professional development.” Not training that is specific to OUR weaknesses as specific teachers, but training that is at the whim of some department in the big building downtown who thinks this is what is going to help us, teachers, move our students.

Teachers want to teach because it is our passion. We want our students to achieve knowledge. We live for the days when the light bulbs go off over the heads of our students when they “get it” for the first time. The best days in the classroom is when a student makes a connection that they had never seen before, or answer a question with out having to look it up. It’s NOT when a student gets an A on a test or when the homework was all done. It is a dream of every teacher to have students in their classes who actually WANT to learn. Who hang on every word out of your mouth because they have never heard that before and it is fascinating. Wow.

Macs said...

What a world it would be if people stop making excuses as to WHY you should get something for doing the work you were hired to do. You get paid for the job you do and the hours you put into it, why shouldn’t we? You have a job where advancement in pay is seen as recognition for years of service and a job well done. I teach because of that one kid who gets it when I talk about page 492 in their books. I teach because I love what I do.

I don’t teach to be recognized. I get enough of that when your child is struggling in my class and I am in isle 4 at Publix. I am recognized there, at the mall and even at football games on Friday nights. Oh, I get it then, but recognized in a good way? You mean holiday gifts? Ha. Or a monetary appreciation? No. My reward is the way it feels when you see the entire top ten of the graduating class sitting there and you realize they went though my class? Or when you hear that so and so is now graduating college with honors and going on to be a teacher, because of me? Now, that is recognition. That is why I teach.

I don’t teach for the salary discussion that divides an entire school district because we don’t think everyone should get an equal cut. I don’t want to be made a fool for asking for a fair raise. I heard this week on sports radio that professional athletes 20 years ago only made 2 million dollars a year, now they get 20-40 million a year. That is some rate of increase. I don’t want millions. I just want to be treated as a professional, as a respected member of a free society. Why am I a teacher? Why do I care so much?

Maybe that one child who “gets it” in my class, is yours. Don’t you want your kid to have me for a teacher?

Signed: Teacher disenchanted by the “system”

Macs said...

Or the countless other meetings that the teachers sat through to go over each and every student’s lexile or score on the pre-standardized test they took last week?

Does the head custodian have to worry about having enough Kleenex or GermX to supply to his students during the year because the donations at the start of the year ran out in November?

Did the athletic director spend their summer in workshop after workshop trying to hone their knowledge base in his subject matter?

Does the data clerk spend hours at home on their own computer uploading to their website kept only for their students? Does she dream of using YouTube, Wiki and Tooble with out having to figure out how to beat the system with a rigged phone or ripping software?

Does the technology support staff understand that the needs of the teachers has out paced his capability to support?

Does the attendance clerk spend $29 dollars each paycheck for membership into a union that has no power in a “right to work state?” Who has not negotiated a real bonus or step increase in over 5 years?

Does administration realize that we have been forced to get upgraded data plans and computers at home so that we can use things that are behind the firewall, once deemed inappropriate at school, in our classrooms as supplemental materials because so much of our materials are out dated?

Do the parents realize that we, teachers, can’t say no to the student who asks for extra help or a letter of recommendation? Do you realize that we give so much extra time that you can’t put a dollar amount on it?

Are any of the support staff BLAMED if the students don’t perform at the level we needed to obtain our A status? No? Why then are the teachers?

If we don’t motivate our students to perform on these tests, we are placed into more training, excuse me “professional development.” Not training that is specific to OUR weaknesses as specific teachers, but training that is at the whim of some department in the big building downtown who thinks this is what is going to help us, teachers, move our students.

Esspweb said...

Whatever Maureen said i agree with her. And one thing i like about the decision and the relationship.
College Papers

Stephen C. Veliz said...

Thanks forbthe post Lee. I know it is not news to you, but this is not a situation that is unique to PBC. It is an issue that is wrestled with by teachers in districts throughout FL (and, I'm sure, around the nation). I'd like to believe that, at least in most cases, good teachers are being pushed to conform with what administrators view as great teaching.

Michelle French said...

Hello. My name is Michelle French. I'm an English Education major at the University of South Alabama. I was assigned to your blog for an assignment in my EDM 310 class. While I may not be a teacher yet, I find this an interesting topic. I'm not exactly sure what constitutes being a "good" teacher, but I would have to say it depends on the persons attitude and teaching style. Each person judges differently on who is a "good" teacher or who is not.

Susan said...

EXCELLENT POST!! It's so true that we ALL need to ask ourselves "what makes a good teacher?" AND "What should my response be to state testing and preparation?" Unfortunately, I think many many teachers don't trust themselves to make good decisions...nor do they understand that "good teaching (and learning) will lead to success on ANY test!"

My teaching blog is http://www.literacycoachingservices.blogspot.com

May I link to your post?

Jenna Baxter said...

This is Jenna again from EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. This is the second blog that I will comment on for my assignment. My summary will be posted by April 3 on my blog. Once again, thanks for letting me follow your blog.

This blog post brings up an excellent question: What is a good teacher? While I may not be a teacher yet, I do have my opinions. I believe a good teacher stands up for her students and tries to always put their needs first. Good teachers are willing to put in the extra hours necessary to make sure their students succeed. Also, good teachers think of their students as individuals and not just a name on paper (or computer). We must always remember why we wanted to become teachers: to help children have a better chance at life by giving them the best education possible. I hope to be able to instill these beliefs in my teaching and be the best teacher I can be. Thanks for making me think about what makes a good teacher!

IB Clever said...

What makes a good teacher?
A very simple question but it’ll trigger a lot of sensitive issues.

On a lighter note, I think good attitude/ethics = good teacher. A good teacher has good attitude/ethics and passionate towards teaching will lead to having good relationships with everyone, good lessons delivery.

cara said...

What makes a good teacher? It took me awhile to discover that all of my bright and shiny teacher's supplies did not make me a better teacher. When I first began teaching, I felt that if I purchased the fun math manipulatives or the bright colorful bulletin boards, I would have all of the confidence in the world to be the best teacher that I could be; however, pretty soon I realized that compassion, dedication, consistency, and patience were things that made me a better teacher. I also believe that a great teacher needs to be reflective and accepting of feedback whether it is positive or negative.

Essay Writers said...

Thanks for your nice post.

Mona Salem said...

Very good question! We all need to ask ourselves this one, and we have to work so hard to be good.

Cinda Prescott said...

I am currently enrolled at The University of South Alabama in their Secondary Education program. We talk about this topic in our classes a lot. What makes a good teacher? I believe really caring about your students, wanting them to succeed and doing everything that you can do as a teacher to help them be successful. This is not an easy task, but one that can be done. I have always done better in classes where I had teachers that had an open door policy and made me feel very comfortable about asking them anything.
Also, making learning fun in the classroom is important to keep students in school and interested in what they are learning. This semester I have learned about so many different forms of technology that can be used to keep students interested and at the same time learning about technology and how to use it. For example, keeping a class blog where students can go for tutorials, podcast and class information. This is also something that could help parents stay up to date and make it easier to help their children with their homework.