Archives for category: Teachers and Teaching



Peter Greene does not like stupid analogies.

He rejects the dumb idea that “a good teacher is like a candle that burns out.”

Hell, no!


Mercedes Schneider writes here about a program in New Orleans to recruit new charter teachers. In the all-charter district, the teachers seem to be dropping like flies. Almost 40% of its teachers have less than three years experience.

The program at Xavier University issues a certification for life, but here is the catch: the certification is valid only in New Orleans!

On September 09, 2019, the Hechinger Report published an article entitled, “A New Teacher Vows to Help in a Classroom Full of Need: ‘Under the Right Conditions, They’d Be Stars.’”

The article features a teaching intern who is part of the Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency, an alternative teacher certification program specifically aimed at recruiting individuals who already hold a bachelors degree in another area to agree to teach three years beyond an initial “residency year” at an assigned New Orleans charter school in exchange for roughly $29K in residency-year financial assistance toward earning a masters degree in education.

From the site’s “about” page:

Who we are

The Residency is a first-of-its-kind partnership not only in New Orleans, but nationally.

And from the “what to expect” page:

Residency Year 1

The Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency merges the best of Xavier University of Louisiana’s teacher preparations practices with the work of five of New Orleans’ leading charter school networks.  During the residency year, a cohort of 30 residents enroll as full-time graduate school students, while also apprentice teaching at schools in the NCFTR network. Residents attend graduate school classes as they work alongside a mentor teacher in a classroom throughout the week.  They build confidence through practice and reflection, and over the course of the year, they gradually take on greater responsibility in the classroom.

Employment in Years 2-4

After year 1, the NCFTR team works with teachers and schools to ensure that the transition into year 2 is smooth. Residents who successfully complete the residency year move into classrooms of their own as full-time teachers of record. While working to complete their remaining Master’s Degree coursework, they apply the skills and knowledge they have built in order to take on the responsibilities of lead teaching. They continue to access the network of support that they have built with their residency year cohort.

Residents commit to teach for three consecutive years immediately following the residency year. After Year 1, Residents are highly likely to remain in the same school or CMO for their additional three-year commitment. Participants who leave a NCFTR partner school before their four-year commitment ends may be responsible for paying back a portion of funds received in their residency year.


My favorite line in the Hechinger Report article that Schneider cites is this one: Though it was just her first year of teaching, Molière, 49, was already an expert at motivating students, who raised their hands high in the air and vied for her attention, then beamed when they got it.

Presumably the teacher had begun work only a week or two ago (the start of the school year), but she was already an expert!

Only in New Orleans are teachers considered “experts” in this first few weeks on the job.

Larry Cuban writes that efforts to standardize teaching invariably fail because teachers adapt whatever they are given to the students they teach.

The past half-century has seen record-breaking attempts by policymakers to influence how teachers teach. Record-breaking in the sense that again and again (add one more “again” if you wish) federal and state policymakers and aggressive philanthropists have pushed higher curriculum standards in math, science, social studies, and reading decade after decade. With federal legislation of No Child Left Behind (2002-2015) and Every Student Succeeds Act (2015-) teaching has been influenced, even homogenized (following scripts, test prep, etc.) in those schools threatened by closure or restructuring. Now with Common Core standards, the push to standardize math and language arts instruction in K-12 (e.g., close reading for first graders) repeats earlier efforts to reshape classroom lessons. If past efforts are any indicator, then these efforts to homogenize teaching lead paradoxically, to more, not less, variability in lessons. But this increased variation in teaching seldom alerts policymakers and donors in their offices and suites to reassess the policies they adopt.

The take-aways from this post are first, policies aimed at standardizing classroom practice increase variation in lessons, and, second, teachers are policymakers.

Policies aimed at standardizing classroom practice increase variation in lessons

Gary Rubinstein has a keen eye for teacher-bashing disguised as research.

In this post, he takes apart a new paper from Michelle Rhee’s old outfit TNTP, which blames teachers for “low expectations.”

He begins:

Before Michelle Rhee was a board member for Miracle-Gro she was the founder and CEO of StudentsFirst.  Before that, she was Chancellor of Washington D.C. schools from 2007 to 2010.  Before that, she was the CEO of The New Teacher Project.

And even though Rhee is not a public figure anymore in education, she continues to influence education policy through The New Teacher Project which has since changed its name to TNTP.  TNTP puts out slick papers that it calls research but is really propaganda disguised as research.  Their first one was called ‘The Widget Effect’ which laid out the case for replacing salary schedules with a system based on merit pay based on statistically inappropriate analysis of standardized test scores.

And over the years they have put out other papers with clever titles like ‘The Irreplaceables’, ‘Rebalancing Teacher Tenure’, and ‘Teacher Evaluation 2.0.’  These papers are often quoted by ed reform propaganda sites like The74 and Education Post.

One of their most recent papers is called ‘The Opportunity Myth.’  Its central thesis is something that reformers love to use in their teacher bashing arguments, which is that too many teachers shortchange their students by having low expectations for them.  The work they assign is not challenging enough and since students always rise to the challenge of whatever you assign to them, these teachers are negligent in their duties.


Recently there has been a flurry of articles criticizing teachers and teacher educators for the way that reading is taught.

But, writes Nancy Bailey, none of them has looked at the effects of Common Core on reading instruction.

She wonders why the omission, why the indifference to the elephant in the room.


Retired New York City Teacher Norm Scott explains here why experience counts.

He writes:

I’ve been watching D-Day movies and finally saw Saving Private Ryan. In pretty much all war movies we see the big differences between grizzled war veterans and the rookies who are often scared to death. It is so clear how important experience is in warfare. I mean what commander wouldn’t want troops who knew the ropes?

In education we often find just the opposite where newbies are preferred. Low salaries. Non-tenured. They won’t talk back and will often do anything asked by administrators, no matter how stupid. And wise in education combat zones like those grizzled sergeants. Too many principals love newbies who they can manipulate.

Over the past few decades the idea that experience makes a difference for a teacher has been disparaged by the ed deformers. Note the growth of Teach for America and the Teaching Fellows where you get 6 weeks of boot camp and are sent into the world to make guinea pigs of students while you learn the ropes.

I was one of those. In 1967 grad students were losing their deferments and going into a 6 week boot camp for new teachers and teaching for two years was a way out and I took it and became a newbie teacher. You know those war movies where the guy is sweating and wracked with fear – Corporal Upham in Private Ryan is the prototype – a coward afraid of combat. I was Upham my first year of teaching. Facing a class of children and keeping them under control was my greatest fear. They were often off the wall. I was envious of these little ladies in my school who had perfect control. When I finally learned how to control a class it was one of the major achievements of my life. I never would have survived as a teacher if I couldn’t. Well, I could have become an administrator.

My friend Arthur Goldstein, who is an ESL teacher and the union leader at Francis Lewis HS, one of the largest and most overcrowded in the city, for the past 15 years has written a very influential education oriented blog called NYC Educator sharing a lot of insights into the many facets of the process and often mystery of teaching.

I wanted to share an excerpt from his posting on June 12 about the coming end of the school year. Arthur has given his finals but still has to keep the students interested. He gives them a surprise test with questions such as: When was the War of 1812? Where does Chinese food come from? What color is the white board? He wondered about a student who got one of these wrong.

Arthur has many decades of teaching and here he gets to some of the essence of why experience matters for teachers.

[Arthur writes:]

“One of the things Cuomo didn’t consider when pushing the miserable evaluation law is what it’s like to bomb in front of 34 teenagers. This, of course, is because he’s never taught, and he’s never been through what we go through each and every day. I don’t know about you, but I fear that more than I fear some supervisor with an iPad. I remember it happening to me in my first few years. I remember watching other teachers and wondering exactly what they were doing that I was not. Why are their classes calm while mine is off the wall? I’m not sure there’s an easy response to that. I’d say things got just a little better when I started calling houses. And maybe I’ve grown more confident or authoritative over the years. Mostly, I have more experience and more go-to lesson plans. If I see something not working I can usually push it in another direction and try something at least different, if not always better.”

That’s it. Arthur has the experience to see what is not working and has the confidence he can figure things out. Like the great pitcher whose slider is not working but adjusts. Not to compare teaching to baseball. Or combat. Welllll, maybe. One of my old pals and colleagues, Rockaway resident David Bentley used to tell the story of his first year in a tough school in 1967-68 when a class of children was so out of control he walked into the office of the principal, a tough old bird named Sophie Beller (Lagosi was her nickname) and told her he was quitting and would rather go to Vietnam. She sent him home for the day to recover and he ended up becoming one of the great teachers in my school. Ahhhh, that good ole experience does count.



Reader Greg Brozeit posted the following comment and video.

I went to see Hiss Golden Messenger, aka MC Taylor, perform. He played a new song that I think all of you will appreciate. Here is what he said to introduce it:

“I was thinking about, what to make a video, how to make a video for this song. And I started thinking about all of the teachers that I’ve had in my life, specifically public school teachers. My wife is a public school teacher. Both of my parents were public school teachers. My sister is a high school counselor. Both of my kids go to public schools. I’m a product of public schools. And we all turned out pretty good. And, I don’t know what it’s like here [Cleveland], but teachers in North Carolina get treated like absolute trash. And it’s rough. So, the teachers in North Carolina, about a month ago, staged a walkout, it wasn’t a strike, but school was cancelled statewide and thousands of teachers gathered in the state capital, Raleigh, and marched with their demands. Which are simple: fund education, basically. It seems so simple.

“So, we sent a film crew out there just to capture the faces of the teachers, just to take their pictures and assemble them into a video. And I think that I’m really close to it because of all the people in my life that have been teachers and have been dealing with legislators telling them that they’re lazy, they’re not worth paying any more than, you know, a babysitter. And the video is so heavy. I can’t wait for you to see it. When I got the first cut back, I just cried and cried like I haven’t before because I saw this thing in these teachers’ faces that I’ve been seeing my whole life, which is like: we love this job, why don’t you pay us to do it?

“So, yeah, you’re going to see this video in a couple of days, but this is a tune called ‘I Need A Teacher.’”

It was released today and I hope you all enjoy and will be inspired by it as I was:

Love me harder
Cry like thunder
Kick the floorboards
Paint it a different color

Another year older
Debt slightly deeper
Paycheck smaller
Goddamn, I need a teacher

Rock me, Daddy, I’m still your kid
The ways to you are oh so very different
Beauty in the broken American moment

Rock me, Daddy, happiness ain’t free
I see where you’re at, I know you can see me
Beauty in the broken American moment

Tell the truth, dear
Don’t be jaded
That’s no way to play it
To say it
To feel it

Lord, make me thankful
Though it ain’t easy
Give it away freely
It’ll come back to you eventually

Rock me, Daddy, I’m still your kid
The ways to you are oh so very different
Beauty in the broken American moment

Rock me, Daddy, happiness ain’t free
I see where you’re at, I know you can see me
Beauty in the broken American moment



Paul Thomas Taught for nearly 20 years, then became a teacher educator at Furman University in South Carolina. He often writes about the media and its misperceptions of teaching. In this post, he laments the fact that the media is constantly in search of a scapegoat for whatever goes wrong in education.

The latest scapegoat, he writes, is teacher education, and the latest lamentation is that teacher educators fail to teach the “science” of education.

The scapegoating deepened because of Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top. If every child was not 100% proficient, someone must be blamed. First, the outcry was “blame the teacher,” but when VAM backfired, it became blame the teacher educator.



Veteran journalist Peg Tyre is in Japan right now, trying to learn more about their efforts to reform schools. She loves feedback from you.

Will “Spinach” Stop Japanese Schools From Teaching Kids in A Way That Promotes Innovation?
Here’s the project: The governments in Japan and South Korea say they want to educate students to become more innovative and creative in order to participate more fully in the global economy. They are promoting English language instruction (with an emphasis on speaking), self-expression, critical thinking and problem-solving. I’m on a research trip to those countries to find out more.
In my last newsletter, I asked for help. And I got it! I’ve been astonished (and delighted) by how many teachers, policymakers, researchers, students, and school administrators have reached out to share their reflections about the kind of teaching that produces innovators, what’s changing, the challenges, the opportunity, and potential for transformation in the U.S and in Japan. Again, thank you! Keep those emails coming (
Progress: I’ve been spending time with teachers, administrators and policy makers. A few days ago, I interviewed an educator, Joe Hug, who has a unique perspective on the school-to-workplace pipeline in Japan.
After working as a teacher and university professor, Hug started a consulting firm that helps Japanese teachers of English (junior high school, high school, and college) who are under pressure to create classrooms less dependent on rote learning. He also helps prepare university students to become more active learners so they can enroll and thrive in prestigious business school program in the West. He has a gig with two large, well-known Japanese companies (including a division of Mitsubishi) teaching “global competency” to their junior employees. 
Hug, who is married to Reiko Hug, a Hiroshima native, says the biggest blocker to the government’s efforts to produce a culture of innovation might be “spinach.” 
What Does That Mean? It’s a loose translation of the mnemonic Ho-Ren-So,which sounds like the Japanese word for that leafy green. In practice it works like this: Hokoku” means report everything that happens to your superior. “Renraku” means to relate all the pertinent facts (absent opinion and conjecture) to your superior. And “sodan” mean to consult or discuss all your work with your boss and your team-members. Ho-Ren-So was popularized in the 1980s by the Japanese executive and author Tomiji Yamazaki, who put the catchy name on this deeply held set of interlocking cultural values which prize collaboration, caution, and stability over risk-taking and creative problem-solving. To the Western eye, Ho-Ren-So in the workplace can look like repetitive back and forth with your team. Or having a micromanaging boss. To be clear, he wasn’t suggesting that tired ethnic cliche of “groupthink” but something more subtle: a learned aversion to “getting it wrong.”
What Does This Have to Do With Schooling? Ho-Ren-So reflects a set of norms that are reinforced in the early grades of nearly every Japanese school. Children are taught to collaborate. They are asked to follow directions precisely. And respond to questions with what the teacher has determined is the correct answer. It’s the opposite of “working well independently” which is actually something U.S. schools prize. (And a comment your parents might have read about you on your report card.) And it couldn’t be more different from the mantra of our latest crop of Silicon Valley billionaires –“move fast and break things” (which clearly has its own downside.) It’s about teaching and learning in a way to produce the answer that is expected.
Here’s Hug: “The Japanese school system is great but it focusses on teaching kids to come up with the right answer, the one that is required of them. But that’s not the modern world.” In the modern world, he says, students need to figure out “what are the possibilities.” It’s difficult to teach students that way, says Hug, when students don’t want to be seen as “getting it wrong.” 
These days, teachers are being challenged, says Hug, to create and support a classroom culture that’s flexible enough for students to make a mistake and recover from it. Where “getting it wrong’ is part of the process of getting it right. And “teachers feel abandon,” says Hug. Most didn’t learn that way. The “spinach” culture of Japan doesn’t support it. And teachers aren’t sure how to pull it off.  
Your Thoughts? Have you ever encountered “spinach” in Japanese schools or companies? How exactly are teachers in Japan going to be managing this transition? Do we have a version of that in the U.S.? Here’s a big question: Can fear of failure co-exist with innovation? I’d like to hear from you.
Know of someone who might be interested in this conversation? Send me their email.
My trip is made possible by a generous Abe Fellowship for Journalist (administered by the Social Science Research Council.) I retain full editorial control. I also appreciate the moral support of my colleagues at the EGF Accelerator, an incubator for education-related nonprofits in Manhattan.


Peter Smagorinsky is a Professor of English Education at the University of Georgia. He often contributes to Maureen Downey’s blog at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In this post, he lets his students explain why they were inspired by Stephanie Johns, who teaches at Classic City High School in Athens, Georgia.

As you read about this model teacher, Stephanie Johns, you may realize that experience matters. She has distilled her dedication, love, and concern for her students into a daily practice, which enables her to reach them and teach them.