Posts Tagged ‘Maralyn Parker’

What Teachers make

May 19, 2010

The essence of this “I can make a C+ feel like a congressional medal or an A- feel like a slap in the face.”

The teacher has to know the student, where they are on their journey of learning, and how to help them to step to their next level. They must engage the heart and the mind of the student to do this. Every student is unique, with unique learning characteristics, and it requires the skill of a dedicated teacher to understand these unique learning characteristics, and teach the student how to apply them to learning and to the world. That is why we will always need teachers; a computer can never replace the teacher because a computer cannot read learning needs like a human being can.

Most of the problems in education do not lie in the ability or dedication of teachers, but in the school systems. The first problem is a legacy of 19th century punitive education which punishes students for not learning, or not performing to the required level. The second is an academic rationalism which sees schools competing in a marketplace for the highest academic results, and for funding. The consequence is that school image and marketing is vital to attract academically able students, and non performers are eliminated. Students are valued for how well they help a school compete academically and for funding resources.

Most teachers do an amazing job in the face of this pressure for results. Sadly some succumb to the flawed paradigm of punitive education. One example is the head teacher who issued demerits to students who did not pass the safety test required to enter the workshop. A week later students who still had not passed were again issued with demerits. Several weeks later, the exercise was repeated. The intention was to punish these students into passing the test, but it placed them in an impossible situation where they were punished for not being smart enough.  This only served to destroy their confidence in their own ability to learn, and in the school’s ability to lead them in their learning. It is a perfect example of punitive education, and a perfect candidate for Maralyn Parker’s “Dunce of the Week” “Floggings will continue until morale improves”

Parents play a role in expecting unreasonable academic performance and demanding punitive measures to improve results. The 19th century punitive paradigm of education in deeply entrenched in parents, because this was their experience of school. At a recent teacher-parent interview night, a parent was heard to say to their son “Bring back the cane- that will improve your marks”. Perhaps it was said in jest, but there is nothing funny about physical violence. Some parents also conclude that if punishing students isn’t working, then perhaps punishing the teacher and the school will work.

Teachers do make a difference. Let’s make sure it is a positive one.