Thursday, January 14, 2010

Teaching encompasses a huge range in temperaments; but even content-oriented AP teachers need help keeping up

Public school teaching as a career lives in a wide range. At one end, you have teachers who do mostly AP courses and may teach a local colleges too and publish papers. At the other end, you have teachers of elementary or pre-school grades and special education, who have to love kids just as they are. Teaching implies that “you” are preparing someone else for the limelight and you are taking a backseat others in being recognized for intellectual accomplishments – until you get to the upper levels, into the “publish or perish” academic world.

A couple of newspaper articles demonstrate the problem. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Emma Brown gave a Washington Post Metro Section article “The soul of an ambitious approach to up-to-date science instruction: Montgomery center develops lab exercises, shows teachers how to conduct them,” link here. Senior high school teachers generally have gotten there partly because of their mastery of specific content (as with the Praxis exams), but technology changes so quickly they need to be brought up to date anyway. The newspaper article presented an experiment in replicating DNA. I’m reminded of a recent AOL science story about a sea slug with chlorophyll – but an animal and a plant at the same time – and able to incorporate photosynthesis-related DNA from the food that it eats! Such processes may be more likely on alien worlds a few dozen light years away.

Then today (Thursday Jan. 14) Washington Examiner columnist Joetta Rose Barras writes (p. 9) “a damning evaluation for a D.C. teacher” link about a comparison of two elementary teachers in DC schools: a math teacher who had consistently raised scores of his kids, and a veteran teacher with 23 years experience and an $80000 salary whose kids consistently deteriorating in test score performance when in her class. Teaching in these grades is a selfless passion as an individualist sees things. You have to go back to the expectations laid out in Rafe Esquith’s book “Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire” (2007).

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