Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hot Topic: School Reform - Follow Up

As promised, I am now going to give you my thoughts on the Seattle Business Magazine Editor's Letter I shared here.

"Four years ago, I was dismayed by the terrible math education my son was getting...for two years in a row, he had the same incompetent teacher."

Well, this statement is as good a place as any to begin sharing my feelings on Mr. Helm.  Firstly, you can request teachers.  I know I did!  There was one teacher that especially taught math in a way that I understood, and so I requested him for each math class I took.  Why is this a big deal?  Handle it, Dad!

"Started a before-school math program."

Um, that's what parents SHOULD do!  A teacher does not have time/resources to hold the hand of every student in his/her class.  If your child is falling behind or you aren't happy with the individual attention your kid is getting, hire a tutor!  That's what they're for.

"Public schools are failing us."

Well, that's a pretty generalized statement.  I think the main problem with public schools is that they have not managed the expectations of parents.  Parents seem to think it is the school's job to ignite passion in all the different subjects.  I disagree.  Public schools are expected to be a foundation of education.  It's the responsibility of the student and the parents to grow educational opportunities off of that foundation.

"We should give public school principals, like private school principals, the authority to pick the best people available to teach math and science classes, regardless of what their credentials are."

I think this is a really interesting theory.  My cousin, Pony Girl (blog name, her parents don't hate her enough to name her Pony Girl for real!) made this comment:  I do think it is important to have one for teaching above preschool. The reason is there is so much about curriculum, behavior management, inquiry-based and sequential learning, and teaching strategies that is important to know. Many brilliant mathematicians understand math, but maybe don't understand people or how to teach those concepts, especially to hormonal teens!

Pony Girl is a very educated woman and a wonderful preschool teacher without a teaching certificate.  I have to say that, though I see Pony Girl's point, there are also a number of teachers who, just because they took the courses and have a certificate, don't necessarily teach in an effective way.

I don't care if the person teaching my daughter has a certificate or not.  A background check - YES!  But I think about all the college professors I had, and how it was so great to learn from someone who has "walked the talk"...not just read about it!

"They (retired engineers and scientists) would not only understand their subjects better than many credentialed teachers, but they might even be able to get students excited about their field."

I agree about the excitement.  I disagree with teachers not having as good as an understanding as people who have worked in the field - I just don't like generalizations like that.  But I see the point.  I suppose this mainly brings me back to the point made before - that just because you understand your field does not mean you'll be able to teach it.  But it doesn't mean you won't  be able to, either.  And just because you have a certificate doesn't mean you are a great teacher.

Bottom line, parents need to be involved in education and can't rely on schools and teachers alone.  Family field-trips, projects, camping, gardening - all great ways to teach your kids things that they might not learn in school.  Or maybe it was taught, but the student didn't bother to pay attention because he/she thought, "I'll never use that."  Doing some of these things might just show your kid why it's important to learn these basic principles!

Oh!  My brownies are ready.  I sure am glad I learned to measure in elementary school math, so that I could make myself delicious brownies.

-Grace's Mom


  1. Hello Grace's Mom! I agree with all that you say..we are so active in our daughter's education and even when she was a baby we were preparing her so she would have a great headstart. She is a straight A student who makes high honor roll..her education is soooo important to us. My Dad was a teacher and he always said that parent participation was 90 percent of the battle.

    ps. My Gracee was born in December as well.

  2. I have to say that IN THEORY it's great to say principal's can pick the best teacher, regardless. In practice, I think it's all very political and that would probably just lead to nepotism in a lot of districts - likely the poorest districts that need the most help.

    I don't mean to generalize (I see your point on that one!) and I know you can't prove my example, but my Dad taught in the public schools for 37 years (was also an administrator during that time). To an extent, I think it could be difficult that his hands were tied on who he could hire (based on credentials), but I think he also sometimes got pressure to hire the superintendent's son/nephew/etc...

    As an aside - I love that your comment on my blog was to join the group with the crazy mommy because it'll create good blog content. Way to throw me under the bus!

  3. Well said. I do think education is too difficult of an area to assign wholesale fixits to .. but parental involvement is a must. And even the most credentialed teachers in the world can be ineffective.

  4. I guess in our area a lot of the teachers get frustrated over time. (It's a very diverse community and many of the kids come from non-english speaking homes.) Still, I think teachers burn out too. Not enough money for supplies, etc. Still, I think the majority of the teachers I know are truly dedicated to doing all they can to prepare the kids for the future. Parental involvement is mandatory for success!