professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Op Ed or Attack?

When your op-ed piece on the state of teacher preparation programs ends with this sentence: "It’s about time the leaders of our education schools did feel threatened," I think the line has been crossed between an editorial statement and an all out attack. I know this is a sensitive subject to me; I am a teacher. I work in a College of Education (one of the oldest and most respected ones, I might add) now. My teacher training, lo those many years ago, was (to use one of the educational deformers own words) "rigorous." And I have gone back for more professional development and two more degrees in the field to further hone my skills. But this is the New York Times, folks, and we all know they are hardly a friend to education. Sometimes, their op-ed pieces seem to be more like briefing documents issued by Arne Duncan.

So, I probably should not have read this piece called "An Industry of Mediocrity," found here: But read it I did. And here is the opening quote: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach teaching.” OUCH! So not only can i NOT do something, but I cannot even teach something. I am apparently clueless when it comes to my vocation. Of course, the writer also includes the faux research of NCTQ as part of his lambasting of teacher prep programs. Apparently, those who WRITE editorials cannot read and understand research; they are unable to identify the central flaws of NCTQ for sure.

Folks from the outside think, as a result of one whole day or semester or week in a classroom, that they have THE answer. Trouble is, IMHO, there is not ONE approach, one answer. If everyone's classroom method, demeanor, etc. were the same as mine, we could not reach all kids. That is as true for K-12 as it is for college and grad students, too. I am on awe when I watch other folks give presentations, do booktalks, interact with classes. There is no ONE way to teach a concept or skill either (part of the flaw underneath all of the reforms of RttT/CCSS/PARRC, etc.). And there is no formulaic method. If this existed, I would like to think we would all be doing it exactly the same way.

Now, as for the scenario in the op-ed, I do agree that observing our colleagues, being out in the classrooms and schools, and seeking responses from others are all valuable. However, they do not take the place of educator preparation.

I completed my M.ED. during the 80s. In Houston, this was a time when the oil industry was gong through quite a bit of "slim downs." I suddenly had folks in my grad classes who had careers other than teaching. They turned to teaching because they could get certified to teach with as few as 6 grad courses. Many were in classes for a JOB and not for a career. And there is a world of difference between teaching as a job and teaching as a career or, as I think of it, a vocation. I did not enter education for weekends off (ha! that is when I could plan next week's lessons, grade, research, take courses) or summers free (I have not had a summer without teaching for 25 years; no work means no pay) or (my favorite expression) banker's hours (at school before sunrise this time of year and driving home in the dark. I worked from about 7:30-4:30. Nine hours with a 20 minute lunch before I had to do some sort of lunchroom, playground, or hall duty. More if there were a concert or a game or some after school program.

But let me return to the topic of the op-ed. The reform-deform began with disrespecting teachers. It moved on to teacher-education programs because the leaders of this movement to reform-deform education saw that there were still folks who could and did speak their minds. They started going after some during NCLB if we dared to question phonemic awareness and basal readers as the correct way to teach reading and reading teachers. Part of that is still evident on NCTQ. All one has to do is see the ratings of textbooks as "acceptable" or "irrelevant" or "unacceptable." The only texts and approaches deemed acceptable harken back to NCLB and it narrow focus on "scientific" research (research which dismissed any research on reading aloud and other strategies because they did not fit into their charge). I am happy that my books are deemed irrelevant. If they had been embraced, I might have attempted to buy back the copyright and destroy the books. I love being irrelevant. It means I have not cashed in on the reform-deform movement. It means I care more about kids and books and readers than I do about royalties or about appealing to a group of people whose goal seems to be to tear down. As for me, I would rather build than destroy. So perhaps the saying can be revised (I am big on revision even though I am not a writer for the NYT). Those who can, do. Those who care, teach.
Tags: nyt, teacher education
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