Marc Tucker has an interesting blog today in Education Week
) about teachers. He recounts his many encounters with incompetent, drunk-on-the-job teachers. But he uses this beginning to say that we really need to give more thought to helping teachers, encouraging the best teachers, and improving the conditions of teachers so as to attract excellent candidates in the future.
I thought and thought but I couldn’t remember a single teacher in my own experience, or that of my children or grandchildren, who was a drunk-on-the-job teacher. I went to ordinary public schools in Houston, and I had my share of ordinary teachers. I remember someone told me once that if you have even one great teacher in your lifetime, you are blessed. I was doubly blessed, as I had at least two.
But I must say, I never came across any of the horrible men or women who seem to give the reformers sleepless nights.
If they exist, and I suppose they must, then they should be fired in their first year on the job. If not, then their principal is not doing his or her job.
From all I have seen of the research, the multiple-choice standardized tests that are now in common use will not reveal who those “bad” teachers are. Who knows, the “bad” teachers might be extra good at drilling kids on test questions. And we might end up giving bonuses to “bad” teachers.
When I spoke in Missouri a couple of years ago, I met hundreds of teachers after the event, as I usually do. So many told me that their father or mother had been a teacher before them. I realized that these are the teachers we have now, in the towns, villages, and cities of America. And in the future we will have their sons and daughters in the classrooms. We owe them a good start. We owe them respect for the hard work they do for all of us. We owe them good leadership. We owe them the autonomy to make decisions in their classrooms, rather than to be treated as automatons or robots. And we owe it to them and their colleagues to treat teaching as a true profession, not as a temp job meant for young college graduates who will be gone in two or three years.