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Five Shortcomings In Education

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Although I’m not a quitter, lately I feel like giving up. Despite Herculean efforts to accomplish things, I more or less find myself even further behind. Somehow I’ve gotten so far behind I’ve even lost sight of the starting line.

This latest foray into what I like to call my "Middle Age Angst” comes smack dab in the holiday season which I normally find uplifting, fulfilling and, in many ways, inspirational.

I thought maybe I would feel better if I at least got caught up on issues in the EduSphere. After checking my Google reader for posts from my favorite bloggers, I even ventured out to take a sneaky peak at what some of the educational pundits were yakking about.

I started to read Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews’ column, “Five reasons why I am a bad education writer.”

But instead of reading, I spent more time pondering the rationale for publicly listing one’s failures especially in these uncertain economic times. Obviously Mr. Mathews must not be Catholic, or he would have made a speedy quick trip to the confessional instead of his keyboard for absolution.

In addition to squandering time contemplating Mr. Mathews' motive for his soul-searching, I got to wondering if I could come up with a funny list of “Five reasons why I am a bad teacher” since I needed a post for my blog. But after staring at a blank computer screen for longer than I care to admit, I couldn’t, not because I am the perfect teacher, but because, quite frankly, there’s really nothing very funny about a bad teacher or administrator unless you’re watching The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Teachers.

So instead, I opted for taking his list of shortcomings and re-purposing them as things that make teachers, shall we say, less than stellar.

No. 1…Spending too much time fulfilling all the political and administrative edicts that slice into time better spent preparing for class. Mr. Mathews says something about “ideological battles,” but I don’t really know any teachers who have the time to wage one of those. I think I’d rather just shut my classroom door, crank up AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," and plan my little world.

No. 2…While Mr. Mathews bemoans the fact that he doesn’t spend enough time on parents and students in crisis, I think most teachers have that covered. Teachers spend a disproportionate amount of time on parents and students in crisis. Not to diminish the need to address and meet those needs, I still often wonder about all those "regular" kids. You know, the ones who go to school, more or less do their homework, study for tests, behave in class.  They never get the special field trips, the gift card incentives, the do-overs or the extra attention that their struggling peers do. Some will say those kids don’t need all those extras to flourish, but I often wonder if that is true. And that doesn't even factor in the gifted kiddos. In fact, some education experts point out the serious ramifications that will face us as a nation if public schools continue to shortchange our gifted students.

No. 3…Public education experts, administrators, and teachers, like Mr. Mathews, spend too much time focusing on what is wrong instead of what is right and building on successes. Or, worse, they believe that just because something is successful at one school, that success can translate into success at every other school. 

No. 4…Mr. Mathews cites laziness and preconceived notions as one of his reasons for his lack of coverage of private schools.  Laziness and preconceived notions certainly can make teachers less than stellar in the classroom. I have always marveled at the teachers who were able to teach exactly the same thing in exactly the same way year after year and use exactly the same tests each year. Since students are different each year, I always had to teach them differently. Some years kids grasped a concept quickly while in other years, they faltered. Common sense should tell you that good teaching requires constant adapting, shifting, changing.

No. 5…Since most teachers have barely enough time to plan, grade and teach, I doubt they will carve out time to read research generated by intellectuals who spend their time in think tanks instead of classrooms. Teachers probably should stay more on top of that, though. There might actually be an idea, thought or proposal worth something. At the very least, it would give us a heads-up on what ninnyhammer plan is fixing to make our lives, shall we say, less than stellar.

Just thinking of that list made my head hurt. Now, about my own shortcomings… Well, I think I’ll just run speedy quick to confession and try and come to terms with my own angst.

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About Carol Richtsmeier

  • Ron

    It will be interesting to see an article that outlines various solutions to all the shortcomings mentioned in this article.