Good Teachers Often Don’t Get Any Respect!

I saw the bus that was escorting the Teachers of the Year to a ceremony from the White House.  There is a lot of talk about “bad teachers” but very little reward or recognition for teachers who are doing a great job.

I learned to apply and reward myself with the opportunities that can come with being adventurous as a grant finder, or workshop participant in learning. But just regular respect, commendation, and or community accolades are hard to get. Children will tell you that the bond between the teacher and the class is a kind of reward that no one can give but them. Just today , a former student, asked in a joking way about his hotwheels car that went in the June box. Another wrote to tell me she has gotten her Master’s degree in teaching from a state university.  But the kind of respect that teachers need is under the radar in most places.

This recent week we have all suffered from the teaching effectiveness discussion by opinion.  Here’s a story that finally surfaced.

latimes.com/news/local/la-me-adv-good-teacher-20100828,0,5541840.storylatimes.com

No gold stars for successful L.A. teachers

L.A. Unified has hundreds of excellent instructors. But no one asks them their secrets to success, and most of the time no one praises them. Often their principals don’t even know who they are.

By Jason Felch, Los Angeles Times

10:26 PM PDT, August 28, 2010

It’s a Wednesday morning, and Zenaida Tan is warming her students up with a little exercise in “Monster Math.”

That’s Tan’s name for math problems with monstrously big numbers. While most third-graders are learning to multiply two digits by two digits, Tan makes her class practice with 10 digits by two — just to show them it’s not so different.

On this spring day, her students pick apart the problem on the board — 7,850,437,826 x 56 — with the enthusiasm of game show contestants, shouting out answers before Tan can ask a question. When she accidentally blocks their view, several stand up with their notebooks and walk across the room to get a better look.

The answer comes minutes later in a singsong unison: “Four hundred and thirty-nine billion, six hundred and twenty-four million….”

Congratulations, Tan tells them, for solving it con ganas. That’s Spanish for “with gusto,” a phrase she picked up from watching “Stand and Deliver,” a favorite film of hers about the late Jaime Escalante, the remarkably successful math teacher at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has hundreds of Jaime Escalantes — teachers who preside over remarkable successes, year after year, often against incredible odds, according to a Times analysis. But nobody is making a film about them.**********end

You can’t take gold stars to the bank, but they would help with teacher morale.

Instead, the papers are trashing teachers and their reputations based on ” tests”. I always laugh when I see this discussion. I was a fourth grade teacher who got kids from a teacher who didn’t teach very well, but she sure managed to get the test scores that she needed for her class. We were in shock and dull amaze each year when we got her class. Later, we found that she would take the test answers home and put in the right answers. She told us.

Why take a chance when you can make sure that the kids get the scores that parents want. Don’t ask did I report her, because I did not. It just solved the puzzle for me. I know another teacher who would order the tests as if she had a school to look over the items. I don’t know how that worked. But these teachers were test scared. I always felt that I needed to know what needed to be improved in my teaching. I think however, that testing is only one form of evaluation.

In our society, we reward sports players  with outstanding amounts of money, contestants for the silliest things with money, but there  are few awards for teachers. The awards are competitive, and usually national.

Here’s the thing. If you are lucky enough to get an award, often it causes grief . Lots of principals don’t want a star. Once I was meeting with Keith Geiger in my classroom and the funniest thing happened. One of the teachers who wanted everyone to go home at four, poked her head into the room.” Hey”, she said…. ?Time to go. ”  She was saying to me that no matter how hard I worked or how long I stayed we were getting the same salary and I was stupid for being there.  She did not recognize Keith Geiger who at the time was the head of the NEA. I had gotten a substantial reward by being selected as a Christa McAuliffe Educator. I got to mentor teachers nationwide as well.

You would think winning awards , being proactive in support for teachers, would be a given. Yes, there used to be Disney. and before that Campbell Soup gave awards.Even the Christa McAuliffe Awards are gone. Too bad.

My principal was so upset that I got the award that she restricted how they could take pictures in the school , and made me go home and put on a skirt ( I was taking kids to an outdoor lab trip) She also restricted me from taking the Mac , for our night writing to the place where we would be spending the night. But, a mother, seeing the discussion, volunteered to bring her own computer and we , the class and I, wrote our newspaper about the things that happened that day in joy … and as a respite from all of the trail hiking, pond investigations, looking for nature patterns that we had done. Most remarkable were the stories of taking the first look through a telescope , the night before. Phoebe Knipling, my mentor in environmental science, brought amateur astronomers to the Outdoor Lab and we looked through a huge telescope and several small ones. Creating a trip like that was hard work. The reward was the work, the interest and the understanding of the parents.

But , nothing but hassle from the principal.  Sometimes there are teachers who are innovative and creative and they are pushed from the classroom as being odd ducks.

Let’s hope the mean spirits of looking for Superman, don’t weigh in on those who are truly gifted teachers .

Bonnie Bracey Sutton

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