Today’s post is written by Dick Carlson, Chief Learning Officer at Applied Educational Systems, Inc.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but our education system is in trouble. Some of the students are not performing as well as parents (and administrators, and politicians, and other amateur educational experts) would like. “Let’s fire all the bad teachers!”
So something must be done.
Well, that makes sense. If your steamship is headed for an iceberg, something must be done.
If your football team is losing, something must be done.
If your Country is printing up worthless money and running up a huge deficit, something must be done.
It would make good sense to me, as an amateur steamship captain, to fire the guy in charge of the propeller. That dang thing is driving the ship right at the iceberg.
It would make good sense to me, as an amateur football coach, to fire the guy in charge of the scoreboard. That guy keeps putting up numbers that show us losing.
It would make good sense to me, as an amateur economist, to fire the guy running the printing presses. All that worthless money is ruining our economy.
“It doesn’t take an expert to see what’s wrong, here.”
When I hear those words, the snarky devil inside me often wants to point out that we’ve had lots of amateurs already try their hand at “fixing” our educational system. And not a whole lot has happened to the good. It’s a complex system, and when you push on one end you get results at the other end you may not have planned on at all.
Take those “bad teachers,” for example. I agree that there are lots of bad teachers in public education. Teachers who don’t care. Teachers without teaching skills. Teachers who hate what they do. I’ve taught many, many people to teach — and it pains me every time I encounter someone doing it poorly.
But just like bad plumbers, the reason they’re in your system is that someone allows them to remain bad. In a top school system, there are very, very few teachers that are not operating at a high level of performance. (And few bad janitors, few bad cafeteria workers, and few bad bus drivers.)
Now that “someone” might be the administration — principal or school board. Bad management, bad training and support, poor management of resources. Or that “someone” might be the State Legislature — poor funding, outdated rules, too much hands-on management of educational processes. Or that “someone” might be teachers unions — protecting low-performing teachers or archaic work rules.
It might even be parents. If parents aren’t involved, and participating — with homework, school visits and discipline — even a “good” teacher will have problems. But many families aren’t that rosy happy two-parent team that I grew up with. Often, it’s a single parent working three jobs, exhausted at homework time. No easy fix there.
Let’s fire all the bad teachers! Not gonna help.
So just firing all those “bad teachers”? Not gonna help. Kind of like firing that scoreboard guy. The next one you hire will have the same darn problem, unless you make some major changes in your operation.
Dick Carlson is an Instructional Designer, author, speaker and project manager who develops amazing learning experiences for technical audiences. He writes a blog called “TechHerding” that started when he began herding technical cats at the Microsoft Corporation over seven years ago.
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