E-flections of an Educator

Better Teacher or Better Job?

Posted on: November 5, 2011

While enjoying my coffee this morning, I read the November/Deceember issue of American Teacher, a publication of the American Federation of Teachers. One of the articles was a review of a book by John Merrow, The Influence of Teachers:Reflections on Teaching and Leadership. The reviewer noted that Merrow “comes across as a real fan of teachers.” Two paragraphs of the review really gave me pause:

In conclusion, Merrow says there are two competing views on how to improve education. One is the “better teacher” view, which holds that “if the problem is mediocre teachers, the solution is obvious: if they cannot be retrained, replace them with better people.”

The second is what he calls the “better job” view, which holds that “the problem is with the job itself: teachers aren’t respected, classes are too large, an administrators don’t punish unruly students and so forth. Therefore, the solution is to make teaching prestigious, rewarding and attractive–a job worth fighting for.”

This is not an either/or condition. It’s a both/and. Yes, we need better teachers. All teachers can become better teachers…always reflecting, always revising, always learning, And those who struggle need to be given support and opportunity to improve. If they cannot, they need to be counseled out of the profession. Teaching also could use a boost in the “better job” category. Improving cultures of collaboration where teachers can work with colleagues to reflect and improve on their practices is necessary to make teaching a “better job” with the added benefit of molding “better teachers.”

Ending the political and media sport of teacher (and union) bashing would be a really good place to start.

What do you think?

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1 Response to "Better Teacher or Better Job?"

I recently read Dylan Wiliam’s new book, Embedded Formative Assessment. He contends that teachers need to get better but that the argument of simply replacing the ones that need to improve is a ridiculous notion. As a work force, the number of teachers is huge. An education professor out of (I think) MSU that I heard speak at the testing conference last year said that in terms of high education professionals,the teaching profession has the highest numbers, and statistically it would stand to reason that there would be more mediocrity. It isn’t a fun thought, but it makes sense. When thinking in those terms, where would one find the sheet number it would take for wholesale replacement?

I definitely agree that we need to help teachers improve, and maybe even counsel them out of the profession. But if we don’t make the profession attractive to the caliber of people we need to enter it, we are fighting a losing battle.

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