Calling all Extraordinary Teachers!

I'm a good teacher, and I don't think it is cocky of me to say. I don't have any crazy visions of teaching grandeur, but I know I am an asset to any building I work in. I'm knowledgeable of my content area and then some...because I really am a life long learner. I seek out familiar connections with my students and effectively break down curriculum so that it is attainable and connects to their lives. I am a hard worker who misses very few, if any, days of work. I was a coach, back when swimming was still in the budget. I have edited so many essays that when deep in the crux I am certain my own spelling has become worse. I say all this because right now, Arne Duncan, our Secretary of Education, believes that being a good teacher is just not good enough.

According to Duncan, courtesy of "The Myth of the Extraordinary Teacher"(LA Times)(link below), all that is needed for our students to succeed is an extraordinary teacher. This belief apparently comes in direct response to a supposed push toward smaller class sizes here in the United States. Question: What schools right now have the luxury of actually making class sizes smaller? Seriously. Most schools that I know do not have the funds to maintain small class sizes. In fact, in recent years RIF (Reduction In Force) Notices are no longer an exception, but the norm. And if it is the norm to lose even one teacher a year, how exactly does that make class sizes smaller?

Duncan is basing his theory on statistics from classroom sizes in S. Korea and Japan where classes as big as 45 regularly produce successful students...because they have extraordinary teachers. And they probably do have great teachers. However, I would like some additional information before I jump on the bandwagon, because as we all know research often has outlying factors that may ultimately have a larger impact on the results than what the study suggests.

Therefore, I have some additional questions for the students and families. I would like to ask them how they feel about education in general. I would like to ask the students what they do when they don't understand a concept. I would like to know if they do, or even attempt to do, every single assignment assigned to them, including homework. Do they attend school every day? And most importantly, do they, and their parents, see value in the education they are receiving? Do they believe that school, and what they learn, is directly related to their success as an adult and being a productive member of society?

I want to ask all of these questions to the students in the huge classes, because beyond just proving a point...I truly want to know. I completely agree that a bad teacher, someone who is not effective, is probably going to adversely alter a portion of a child's education. And luckily, I don't feel that I fit in that category, but I also don't fit into commanding 45 students at a time effectively, because like I said...I'm just good.  I don't have the x-factor to reach all of those students at once, to give them all the individual attention that every other teaching guideline has taught me to do.

I can't evenly reasonably grasp how many students receive public education across the United States. And then when I think of how many teachers are needed, it is just as hard to picture. Let's just say I fit into the 75-85% percentile of effective teaching. That leaves 85-95% for the Super Teacher and the top 5% for the Extraordinary Teacher. Imagine how many teachers will need to be replaced, even if we kept all teachers from the 75%-100% percentile.

Perhaps a few other ideas should be considered as well.  There are enough people in the United States that simply don't believe in education. They don't believe it will help them succeed if they do well in middle school or high school, and they most certainly don't believe that an education is going to help them be successful as adults. Why is this?

The idea that our teaching schools don't match the realities of the classroom is another aspect to be considered. Why was I taught how to create lesson plans and build unit plans when many schools are turning to scripted curriculum? Why do these schools teach about educational theory when the reality is that we have very little influence as to what are students are taught?  Why do teachers go through hoop after hoop to remain certified if by doing so it doesn't help them become an "extraordinary teacher"?

I feel bad for education...for the teachers and for the students. There is an awful lot of judgement about teachers that is thrown around by people who have never taught. We are essentially blamed for every deficiency that occurs in education. We ARE the scapegoat of education. Are we all really so bad? I wonder if the teachers in Japan and S. Korea are ever forced into the blame game as well...or are they really that extraordinary?

The Myth of the Extraordinary Teacher 


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