Editor, The Seymour Herald,
Your recent editorial about the LA Times study of teachers brought back memories of easier times. My high school had a graduating class of 46; the whole school population was 212 for all four grades; the marching band had 42 members plus four baton majorettes and my senior year it was standard procedure for four of the football players to take off their helmets, pick up their instruments, and march with the band during the half time activities. (Imagine that happening today.) Incidentally that band won ‘first place’ in state competitions three out of four years running, primarily because of one ‘good teacher.
But I digress, back to the idea of testing teachers. In my opinion it will never happen. Just the number of teachers required to staff the large schools we have today makes it prohibitive. (I think I saw somewhere just last week that one local school district was 45 teachers SHORT based on a higher-than-expected number of students enrolled. 45 teachers at even 20 students per teacher! That’s 900 EXTRA students over what was expected.
How can anyone argue that the system is no longer a teaching environment and has become a ‘corporate’ environment?
Then throw in unions, the courts, and Political Correctness and teacher testing will just never happen.
Yet back then, even with the smaller number of teachers, everyone knew which of them were the ‘good teachers’. No testing required. You could stop in at the pool room, get into a conversation and everyone there knew who the good teachers were and who weren’t. And you could verify those results by chatting with parents at the P.T.A, or in a Sunday School Class, or around a checker game down at the farmers Co-op; even occasionally in the faculty lounge. Everyone knew. Mr. Woll could make science come alive;
Ms. Pinkham was just a so-so English teacher; Ms Kirkpatrick was not particularly well liked by hardly anyone but when she taught typing and shorthand you learned how to type and take dictation.
And while it may not be too scientific, informal polls taken 30-40 years later of grown-ups who attended during the same time period confirms them.
Good teachers just practiced good teaching and before long everyone in the community knew who they were; including the students. Are we so big, and so hung up on ‘standardization’ that good teachers are subtly discouraged from doing what they do best?
A lot has changed since then. We are bigger; busier; with seemingly a lot less time. We’re more sure than ever that OUR kids are at least ‘above average’, more likely to cry foul if our kid doesn’t excel, less likely to say ‘ok, you were disciplined at school–let’s just continue that discipline at home’.
I will admit that since my kids are all grown and have kids of their own in schools a long way from here, that I am not as tuned in to the school scene as I once was. But I have to wonder . . . is it still possible to strike up a conversation with a neighbor, while waiting in the cashier’s line at the grocery store, and by simply asking the question ‘who are some of the better teachers over at the local school’, get an answer that matches closely the answers you might get if the question was asked down at the Co-op, or in a Sunday School class, or even ‘down at the pool room’ . . . maybe even at the School Board meetings? Do we still know who the good teachers are? Not based on our kids grades, but on what is actually being taught in the classroom?
I guess I want to believe that generally we do know who they are. Not based on some popularity survey (which might be biased by the amount of homework given, or the number of videos or movies shown in class, or . . . ??) but by how they actually teach and what our kids are actually learning.
I think that good teaching is recognizable?—even if it is not always quantifiable?
I know, the courts will not allow ‘common knowledge’ as evidence, but have we totally lost our ability to just observe, then come to a logical conclusion, even if it may not be a conclusion we can ‘prove’?
Yeah, I guess we probably have lost that ability, or at least lost the willingness to act on what we are pretty sure we know.
G. D. ‘Moe’ Greenwood
Letter to the Editor
Editor, The Seymour Herald,