Thursday, June 07, 2007

Teaching Tirade

On Tuesday this week, I went to retake a portion of the National Boards test. This year was my second attempt. I feel pretty good about it, but the problem with the National Boards is that as much as they tell you, they don't really tell you much. I mean, yeah, they tell you how things are scored and what the scores mean, but it's not very pertinent information. It's like, "If you scored a 1, did you do X? Y? Z?" Well, I thought I about you tell me what I screwed up?

I arrived at the testing center with all materials in hand including some reading material, because I was early. The lady signing people in and whatnot asked if she could help me and I told her I was early and what I was there to take. She asked, "Would you like to study some, or are you ready?"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Study! That's funny. Now, I can't comment on other subjects, but the Middle School English stuff, what am I going to study? It's not about learning something, it's about convincing someone else that you know what the hell you are doing, which is going to be a whole other tirade in a moment. I can't say anything about the question at all lest National Board Secret Police come storming into my house and carry me away to conveniently disappear. I will say that it's stuff any English should know. It's not about knowing, it's about expression, expressing that you know in a clear, concise, and convincing manner. Blah fucking blah. I will say that I am not convinced that personal teaching preference doesn't affect how I'm going to get scored, and if someone scores my test response and they just disagree with my style, then that could affect my score.

I had about 30 minutes to compose my response and I had to rush the second portions response to be able to finish with about 10 seconds to spare. I felt good about it, but it depends on for what they are looking.

Now begins my tirade that I mentioned above. I find it amazing how teachers are told and taught about effective teaching and assessing strategies, but those strategies are used on the teachers themselves. I noticed this first in my secondary education classes in college. They'll teach you how to teach to multiple intelligences, and making fair tests, and such...but they do so teaching to one intelligence and giving tests with trick questions. I know it's not all education professors, but it seemed there were a lot of them in the classes I took. The same goes for National Boards. Teachers, how many complaints would you receive if you gave a project or test to your students, gave the students a grade, but never gave any feedback about what was missed or done wrong? That's the National Boards. A score with no feedback.

But I know what it is. They make their money off of people going through the process, and the more times you have to go again, the more money they make.

But then we teachers put up with a lot in the name of our chosen profession. Think about...I went to college for four years (I'm not counting the years a floundered from major to major) at Auburn University (WAR EAGLE!), then moved back to my home state where, in order to get a teaching certificate, I had to pay money to take a test...So, a four year degree isn't enough? Well, fuck me...Then, to keep my teaching certificate, I have to take classes and give presentations and such to earn recertification points in a period of time...So the test wasn't enough either, fuck me sideways...And some say it's to make sure that teachers are well trained, No Child Left Behind and shit, but that doesn't make much sense. I mean, a good teacher doesn't get to work at 8:00 and leave at 4:00, leave school behind on the weekend and holidays and summers...Most teachers take papers and tests home at night and on weekends and holidays. Most teachers work on, revamp, tweak lesson plans at night and on weekends and holidays. But that's not enough, we also have to require teachers to take classes, make presentations, etc. etc. With little pay. Don't give me that, "Well, you have the summer off" junk...No, I don't. I'm planning for next year. I would be taking a class if it hadn't been cancelled. We teachers spend so much time grading, planning, calling, reading, learning for our classrooms, that the actual teaching part seems like just a small responsibility, not the primary concern that it should be. We make it harder for someone to become a teacher, slimming down the teachers available, ask more of the teachers we do have, increasing the chance of burnout, which will lead again to fewer teachers.

I love being a teacher, I do...I just hate how everyone views the teaching profession: either that we should do everything without complaint, or that we don't do anything and don't deserve more.


At 12:56 PM, Anonymous mrschili said...

Can I LINK ya? Because, yeah, this is a really good post about a lot of the problems that we as teachers have trying to keep up with the demands of our profession.

Look, good teachers are also perpetual students. Even if I DIDN'T have to continue to take classes and go to seminars to keep up my certification (which, if I'm going for full disclosure, I have to admit that I DON'T; teaching at TCC only requires my degree, not my 5-12 certification, but I'm keeping it up anyway)...back to my point...Even if I didn't HAVE to do those things, I still WOULD.

Teaching is not a static profession. One can't graduate college and cease to learn or investigate or question and still hope to be a good teacher. One has to keep looking into new things, challenge new ideas, and make new connections for oneself so that one can guide students to do the same. We're not just little robots spewing forth information; we're role models for how to THINK. This kind of work, done well, requires constant practice and work with the new materials that present themselves constantly to our world. If we fall out of practice in investigation and thinking, we're doomed as teachers.

I think that the lack of feedback that you mention from the tests is sympotmatic of the PURPOSE of the tests, which I think you also hit right on the head. These tests are not designed to challenge our thinking in significant ways; they're not LEARNING tools (which is what tests really SHOULD be). They're money generators, plain and simple.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger saintseester said...

I am not a k-12 teacher, but it still irks me when I hear people say that teachers have it good because you get summer off. Um. No. You get paid for 9 months of work. And the pay is still too low.

And WAR EAGLE, right back at ya.

At 5:24 PM, Blogger BoDog said...

Mrs. Chili, you have an open invitation to link me.

Yeah, the shame of it is that there are teachers who wouldn't seek to learn new things and try new strategies except the school district, state, and nation say they have to do it. One of my coworkers this year said (and I'm paraphrasing. My memories not THAT good), "I know you're trying all these new things, but I thing you're doing too much. I think you're burning yourself out."

That was her attempt to figure out why I was distancing myself from her negative comments about the former principal. I was trying too many new things. Unbelievable!

Well, my intention this summer, since I'm not teaching summer school this year, is to plan even newer, more ambitious strategies for next year, including a class blog.

And Saintseester, it's good to hear from another AU Tiger, or at least a sympathisizer!

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Seth said...

My frustration with all of this is that on top of everything else, the people making the decisions about what we have to do have likely never been teachers themselves. We're forced to jump through these hoops to improve the educational circumstances for our students (which most of us want as well), but those same people who want best for their kids don't think about what's best for the people TEACHING their kids.

If only we could privatize public education?

At 9:02 PM, Blogger saintseester said...

I went to grad school at Auburn '92. Just found your blog via mrs.chili

At 9:37 PM, Blogger bowyer said...

I think the expression is "preaching to the choir." The last thing anyone is interested in any more is helping out the teacher. Most of what you have said stems from the idea that nearly everyone in this country feels qualified to comment on education and by association, teaching. This is because they went to school, most of them for the whole 12 years, so they feel they must know what goes on behind the scenes. But this is like expecting to be fluent in the game of professional baseball because one once played little league as a kid.

The general bullshit we put up with to accommodate poorly trained administrators, out of touch school board members, selfish students, over-indulgent parents, AND, the ideas spouted by a president with an IQ on par with single celled organisms is astounding. Even the college professors who teach people to be teachers have been out of the classroom for so long that they no longer understand the challenges facing today's K - 12 educators. So we trudge along trying to fight the good fight all the while hoping to educate a few worthy souls during our time in the trenches.

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous sphyrnatude said...

Part of the problem is that there are a lot of bad or incompetent teachers out there. Things like classes, tests, etc are supposed to weed out the bad teachers. Of course, it doesn't work, but thats the idea.
The only rational choice is to move into private education. Not only can you stop taking all those stupid tests, but (if you find a job at a good school) you will be allowed to teach in a way that is effective for you. Sure, you'll have curriculum plans and schedules that you'll have to meet, but a lot of private school let the teachers actually teach.

At 11:03 AM, Anonymous pedantic peasant said...

I love being a teacher, I do...I just hate how everyone views the teaching profession: either that we should do everything without complaint, or that we don't do anything and don't deserve more.

Not "either." As further proof of the old saw about believing incompatible things, most believe both: That we're don't do anything, AND that we should do "more," whatever "more" they want.


Not only have the people making the decisions about what we have to do have likely never been teachers themselves. what do you think the odds are that most of the politicians who are so "well-informed" and "concerned" about education even attended public school? Lots spent at least high school -- if not their entire education -- in private schools

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Parentalcation said...

I wouldn't worry about it. Perhaps you will get lucky and fail the NBCT.

I mean after all why would you want your teaching to suffer.

Ironically its good teachers that get NCBT certification, but their performance suffers after certification.

If anything, the lower coefficients
on the NBCTpost variables suggest that teachers may be less effective – where
effectiveness is measured by success in raising test scores—after receiving certification
than before.

NBCTs are more productive than never-NBPTS
teachers after certification is completed, though less effective than they were prior to
applying for certification.


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