For all the handwringing about how a teacher could say that about a student, that’s not what concerns me. I’ve heard similar in every faculty lunchroom I’ve been in. I’ve heard the same sorts of justifications for ineffective teaching bandied about at union meetings every time the topic of teacher evaluations comes up. She certainly gets enough commiseration in the comments (of her earlier posts, at least). And I wonder if these people all have completely different job descriptions than I do.
I watch the news (well, not all that much really). Or I read articles. Or I see other popular media opinions about teaching (coughWFScough). And they seem just as alien to what I do in a classroom every day. I don’t even know where to start a dialog, because the presumptions about what teaching is are either based on fantasy, or ideas out of the middle ages.
I see teachers fresh out of their credential classes going nuts because they don’t even have the basic tools to do their job, and have been thrown off the deep end to learn to swim. They’re at the “Is there a worksheet for this I can use?” stage. I know they want to be at the “I know all the different misconceptions a student can get while learning this, and have a store of problems in my head that will illuminate those fallacies without actually doing any of the explaining myself” stage, but I’m sure I can’t show them how to get there. After having had a whole load of professors and coaches whose alleged purpose was to facilitate that, I don’t think anyone else has a surefire way of doing it either.
And on the flip side of the spectrum, I can walk into three different teachers’ classrooms, who are by both subjective and objective measures better than I am, and see a range of styles that you couldn’t blend with a Blendtec. That’s nice, but I’m at a loss to describe to someone who doesn’t do this job what it is that makes them effective, and those other teachers not so much.
How can I feel so clueless?
How can people who know nothing at all be so sure?
I’ve had this growing feeling for a while now that whatever professionalism there is in this job is a sham, and it’s just turned into another resource to be mined and discarded, like the mortgage market was, or the energy market before that.
The only bright spot in my mind in all of this is that I feel none of this cynicism when I’m in the room with my kids. Then it’s just me and them against the world, and every day we get just a little bit closer to kicking its ass. But as soon as they leave, the suspicion that I’m just a cog in a big giant sham creeps back in.
1 I keep meaning to do a post about this paper. It’s informed my teaching and my life on a number of different levels, so much so that I keep getting hung up because I can’t do it justice. Read it yourself, maybe it’ll hit your head like it did mine.