More on Waiting for Superman…

I’d like to make something clear regarding my recent post on Waiting for Superman — please don’t read my post thinking that I’m necessarily drinking all of the Kool-Aid. I have questions and doubts just like anybody else. I don’t believe that charters and KIPP and Geoffrey Canada are the end all be all, if you will. I’m a public school teacher who believes very strongly that we need to fix our system and I believe that teachers in the public schools are doing a tremendous job, day in and day out. But I also believe that we need to accept our responsibility as well.

I’ve received a couple emails since my post which have been critical of the stance that I’ve taken concerning the dismissal of bad teachers. I’d like to clarify my position, just to make sure that it’s completely understood. I believe that once a struggling teacher has been identified (and I believe this is done through observations, not simply the result of test scores), he deserves all the help a district has to correct the problems. I believe that should this teacher not make the necessary improvements — and the commitment necessary for our profession — then the employer should be permitted to work to remove him. I don’t believe that this teacher should be able to hide behind tenure whatsoever, but I do believe in due process. For some reason, this was misunderstood in my last post.

In addition, I am a supporter of our unions; I grew up in a union household and was taught their value early on. I am also a building representative and have had the opportunity to work alongside men and women who tirelessly work to make our working conditions better. Their job is underappreciated and there are times I wonder why they put themselves through the trouble. Selflessly, there are people working in our unions every single day to help us in the classroom. I will never believe that a failing teacher who refuses to work to get better and show improvement, however, should be retained just because of having taught for two to three years.

Our clientele is simply too precious to allow this to happen. There are Daisy’s and Bianca’s and Anthony’s and Emily’s and Francisco’s in each and every school in our country. We must strive to make sure that each one of our clients isn’t forced to enter a high stakes lottery by necessity – but the choice should still be there.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that I will be referring to this film in future posts — if nothing else, the film has affected me in this manner — we need to address these issues, and if it serves as a rallying cry for the incredible professionals in our industry, then so be it.

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3 thoughts on “More on Waiting for Superman…

  1. Jeremy–

    I haven’t seen the documentary yet, but I hope to do so soon. I think it’s great that you’re so passionate about this subject and are prompting public discourse on it here.

    I guess my question is, what makes the level of education in schools in certain Asian and European countries so much better than ours, especially in Science and Math? My first inclination is to say that it has a lot to do with culture. In Korea, the best teachers are nationally renown superstars and among the highest paid people in the country. They’re viewed with the same level of admiration and prestige as A-list celebrities and athelets are in America.

    We all know the extreme level of pressure many families in Asian countries place on their children to do well in school. I’d like to think that we don’t need to be that harsh in America, but doesn’t seem like there needs to be a fundamental shift in our value system down to the family level?

    How many parents essentially undermine the work of teachers by regually telling their kids not to worry too much about algebra because, “you’ll never use it in real life”? Worst yet is the ever-growing faction of nutjob parents, politicians and schoolboard members actively working to strip evolution, the Big Bang theory and climate change out of public schools, or insisting on teaching Creationism side-by-side as if it’s an equally valid science. And, of course, sports and physical fitness are great but it’s no secret that a lot of families place a much greater emphasis on how well their kids perform at soccer or football than in the classroom.

    I’m interested to hear your take on this from a teacher’s point-of-view.

  2. Scott…
    I think you make some good points. Unfortunately, I think what’s happening is that we end up comparing apples and oranges. European countries, as well as many in the Far East educate their children until roughly the 8th grade then drop their lower students, only working with the best and the brightest from this point forward. The idea of educating ALL students is just not one that is even considered. In a way, I believe this is the same thing that happens with KIPP and other charters. If a student is a discipline problem or tests low, he is simply dismissed from the school. If a student has attendance issues, he is simply dismissed from the school. And where does this student then end up, if he doesn’t quit completely? Yes, you guessed it, back in the public school system – because we work with ALL students. We don’t have the luxury that the charters have, yet only 1 in 5 statistically outperforms the public schools.
    When comparing to schools overseas, I think the big difference is that we aren’t pushing our kids hard enough. Sure, our students can fill out circles with the best of them, but when it comes to higher order thinking skills, ours just aren’t nearly as competitive. We’ve babied the students – and this is something completely foreign to other countries. We speak of high standards yet don’t truly hold students accountable. And this is tough to do because of what parents want and don’t want.
    Truthfully, you’re touching on a whole slew of issues – issues which I intend to address from a teacher’s perspective as I continue to work on this blog….

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