Saturday, December 05, 2015

Why I'm A Lousy Teacher, And Why Our District's New Evaluation System Will Confirm This

If you think that the most important component of good teaching is the ability to impart knowledge to students, your views are outdated and you don't know what you're talking about.

My views are outdated, and I don't know what I'm talking about.

I've now heard from union cheerleaders and from an administrator about the proposed new evaluation system (which, if voted on, will pass with Soviet-level percentages).  In the few minutes I could tolerate listening to the u-bots, much of it involved bypassing legislative will should the California legislature require student test scores be a part of teacher evaluations; it's important to note, of course, that California now tests high schoolers only in 11th grade, so evaluating teachers on test scores becomes problematic at best, but you can always count on a u-bot not let a good talking point go to waste.

Only a small portion of our evaluation pertains to content knowledge and the ability to impart that knowledge to students.  By all accounts I would do very well on that part of the evaluation--IF I'm evaluated by someone who knows math.  IF, however, I'm evaluated by someone who doesn't know higher math, and that could be a 3rd grade teacher whom the district has trained to be a "peer evaluator", on what would I be evaluated?  On such things as having my students in rows instead of 4-desk pods, on not having a "word wall" or something similar, on spending too much time "teaching" and not enough time letting the students "discover" the learning for themselves, etc.  The usual fuzzy claptrap, in other words.

This is my usual point to these people, who don't address it because their "progressive" religious faith in their doctrine doesn't require them to consider reality:  what say we take four of you, sit you down at a table, and have you "discover" first semester calculus.  I'm not talking about multivariate or anything, just simple first semester calculus of the type developed over 300 years ago.  What's that, you say, you can't do that?  You're freakin' college graduates, and you can't do that?  Then how do you expect teenagers to do it?!

Here's how I would prefer my evaluation be done.  My administrators have a standing invitation to come into my classes on any day and at any time.  Just pop their heads in, stay awhile, take notes, whatever they want.  At any time.  No prior coordination with me so I can ensure I'm doing a dog-and-pony-show, nothing like that.  Just come in randomly and see if good instruction is taking place.  See if kids are paying attention.  See if and how kids are responding to "check for understanding" questions.  See how kids interact with me and with each other when interactions occur.  In other words, see if good teaching and learning are taking place.  If they're not, let's talk about what I need to do to improve, but I'm willing to bet they'll be impressed and decide their time could be better spent with other teachers.

But my views are outdated, and I don't know what I'm talking about.

Update:  I'm not the only one:
By way of background, I went to school in the 50’s and 60’s and am on a second career of teaching math in high school and secondary school after retiring several years ago. I am considered by most to use “traditional” practices rather than the progressive techniques one sees today. A few decades ago there was a mix of opinions on what are considered “best practices” in teaching—some of which included traditional methods. The older generation of teachers, however, has been almost entirely replaced by the new guard.

This has resulted in a prevalent new group-think which holds that traditional teaching is outmoded and ineffective. The participants at Ed Camp were of the new guard; mostly people ranging in age between 20’s and 40’s. A few people were in their 50’s or early 60’s, but were subscribed to the same group-think. From what I could tell, I was the only traditionalist present.
Go read about Barry Garelick's day at Ed Camp here.


Anonymous said...

At our school, alumni who were average students have assumed administrative positions. They are in their 40s but lack classroom experience at the high school level. In the 3 years they have been in charge we have retired more than 1/2 of our faculty. That is a lot of years of experience. The administration made no secret that they wanted the old guard to leave and began to make things uncomfortable for older faculty to entice them to leave. It has worked. The emphasis has changed. We have gone from one of the top academic schools in the state to a place that is "fun" for students. They don't believe that the two things can coexist. Students are referred to as "boys and girls" rather than "men and ladies". Apparently we are no longer developing adults but are prolonging childhood through their school experiences. I have been at the school for almost 20 years and am taking early retirement. The children are in charge and it is difficult to continue to be singled out as "too hard" because expectations are "too high".

If this is the direction of education, God help us all. Graduates will vote and procreate and have less knowledge than educated students of the 19th century. They certainly lack the courtesies.

I am finished and looking forward to the next phase of life.

Teacher gardener said...

I was recently evaluated and marked down because I don't use enough (ambiguous enough?) variety of instructional methods. Yet, my students consistently make the most progress, year after year. Yes, I do more than lecture, but I am too "teacher centered".

Darren said...

My classes aren't "teacher centered", they're "math centered".

David said...

I have always taught my class (middle school history) as a sage on the stage. I know my info and my students don't. Why should I spend 3 days having my students find the information on their own when it is easier for everyone to be done with the information in 30 minutes?
After the sage on the stage part, the students on their own answer some questions or write a paragraph of what he just learned. They don't need to do this in groups of answering simple basic questions that we just went discussed.
Most students like my class because I spread the wisdom of my knowledge, they learn more interesting information and they get out of doing pesky group work.

Ellen K said...

This is some of the nonsense we've heard as Texas also moves toward similar teacher evaluations to replaced PDAS:
-To a Latin teacher with years of experience "You should have the students speak more Latin."
-To a French teacher who had just presented an opportunity for her students to Skype with an undersecretary to the State Dept who is stationed in Paris. "You should present more lessons where the students guide the learning." (how many students have an uncle in the State Dept?)
-To an art teacher with several special needs students including one that runs around the room hooting when he's upset "You really need to learn more classroom management techniques."
-To an American Sign Language teacher "Students should be talking more in class" -totally ignoring that they are signing the entire time.
-To me, after having produced a movie of our museum trip, and being denied access to the school Apple TV's to show the resulting product "You need to use more technology." Explanation on the project-each student had to submit a still photo of an artwork and a video discussing an artwork. The compilation was a 20 minute movie complete with narration and music.

Frankly I don't know what to do anymore. I'm looking at my class list for the new term and out of 31 students total only SEVEN are without some sort of special designation that requires copious documentation. That means on a weekly basis I am required to document information for 24 students. It would be one thing if it was read-but this is just a CYA move to protect administration and SpEd from lawsuits. I've put in information when I think placement is egregious or inappropriate. They will be placing a very low functioning student who is on the spectrum and who hates getting messy, in my painting class. This class incidentally, is already multilevel requiring three different lesson plans. This is serving nobody well.

Darren said...

I don't think I'll be applying for work in your district, Ellen. I feel like I stand a fighting chance where I am, but you....

Ellen K said...

Oh teachers are leaving. Many are simply counting the days, not weeks or months, until they can leave. Some are retiring early and getting other jobs. Our head theater teacher, tired of having the district supervisor load him with extra work that she's supposed to do, got a job working for a well known pink Dallas based company handling their productions for about $20K more a year. His last day is this Friday. This is not the case in all districts. There are some that still seem to value the education of the student over the ranking in the UIL book of stats. Richardson ISD, home of Texas Instruments, has always been a good district. Frisco ISD, with its policy of not letting schools get huge, is another. With my years of experience, and my expertise, I'm too expensive to hire unless someone wants a department head without a Masters degree. If you decide to move this way, let me know and I can give you tips.