Negative Comments = Teachable Moments

While I believe in the importance of debate and the discovery of understanding and hidden truths in disagreement, I believe two things are often required: civility and facts. Should a person comment on this blog without meeting those requirements, I don’t see the value in publicizing their comment.

Unless, of course, it provides me with a teachable moment.

I love the logic that public school teachers constantly apply:

-There is no objective way to judge our performance
-Ergo, give us 100k salaries and iron-clad job security and unsustainable benefits!

You know who decides the value you add? The tax payers who pay your salary. It’s that whole “price discovery” thing – the value of a service is exactly equal to what the provider and recipient agree it is.

When I decide that my lawyer or doctor is charging too much or providing inadequate service, you know what I do? I find another one. It’s just that easy. There’s no “Rubber Room” that they sit in and still receive payment while the negotiations with the union goes through. You serve the taxpayers, they do NOT serve you – we’re not your peasants, and we don’t owe you any tithes.

Before I reply, I want to make clear that I do not blame your teachers for your lack of reading or critical thinking skills. You would have failed the ELA for providing no evidence of your claims and for not using any details in the article above.

With that said, I will address your points very simply:
Tax payers actually don’t determine my worth, given that, here, the term worth is being used to refer to as the quality of my teaching, and not my salary. Polysemous words are also an area of difficulty for ELLs. The ability to decode the context of a text, a key part of understanding such words is a skill that must be explicitly taught.

Secondly, a close reading of my piece will show no mention of my opposition to the existence of an “objective” way to assess teachers. In fact, I think I make pretty clear one main idea on this, that standardized tests and value-added assessments, specifically, are not only not objective but unscientific, inaccurate and missing the point. Inferencing and drawing conclusions from main ideas and details are an area where many students, not just ELLs, also struggle. I speak more to the question of teacher evaluations in a coming post.

Also, salary is not even spoken of metaphorically in my post, but your use of you as a peasant will cost you some points for being a nonsensical metaphor. A more apropos metaphor would be for you to treat teachers as your serfs, since you “pay their salary”, as a landlord did in medieval times. Oh, wait, your tone does that for you.

So, you see, while you may come across as disagreeing with me, a careful reading of my text would show you that you, too, would benefit from a different approach to education, as described briefly in the piece published after this one.

Finally, there is also no longer a rubber room in NYC. Wonderful, I think.

Now, just as with teachable moments with students, we will move on. But first, a final lesson: I think all who care about this topic are tired of illogical, nasty comments that not only miss the point but don’t really raise anything new, well thought out, or of much value. If only we could apply “accountable talk” to the public.


7 thoughts on “Negative Comments = Teachable Moments

  1. “I want to make clear that I do not blame your teachers for your lack of reading or critical thinking skills. You would have failed the ELA for providing no evidence of your claims and for not using any details in the article above”

    I absolutely agree with Dmac, you would have failed the ELA.

    you said:

    “When I decide that my lawyer or doctor is charging too much or providing inadequate service, you know what I do? I find another one”

    Maybe it is not that the doctor provided inadequate service, maybe you failed to follow instructions. It is easy to blame teachers; it is easy to take data out of context; it is easy to make general statements about students’ progress.

    I would love to have those people in my classroom for a week and then come back and comment. I dare you to state the value YOU would add.

  2. Well said! There’s an old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” It applies quite well to teaching. Teachers can plan instruction, gather appropriate material, teach lessons, reteach the lessons, reteach another way etc, but we can’t MAKE the students want to learn or retain the information. Add to that the students for whom there is little support at home, or a home environment which precludes any type of quiet study, review or reading, and you get less-than-optimal learning. Explain how it is the teacher’s fault when a student fails to learn because he/she comes to school ill, or has witnessed violence at home, or is homeless, or hungry, or abused, or has no books, pencils or paper in their home, or speaks another language, or sits in a class with 25+ other students, some of whom are disruptive or violent, or has to share books because the school can’t buy enough for everyone… This is not a list of excuses. This is what teachers deal with on a daily basis, and STILL TEACH. And most of the kids learn – at least the ones who want to. But teachers can’t solve every problem, nor should they. Parents and society must take at least as much of the “blame” when students fail to achieve.

  3. Wait! There’s teaching jobs where I can make 100k? AND have job security? Where do I sign up? My paychecks don’t add up to 100k, and this is the first time in 3 years I haven’t been pink slipped. Now, that I look at my pay stub, there’s an amount that’s taken out for my retirement. Apparently I pay into that and am not mooching off of people’s taxes. I am held up to the standard of having all of my students English proficient by 2014; are doctors expected to have all of their patients cured by 2014? Lawyers will have all of their cases solved? On one standardized test there was a question about a yacht. My students later on wanted to know what “Yakt” was, because they had never seen such a thing, much less a body of water.

    Great article! Thanks for letting me vent. I can’t stand ignorant people who probably spend their weekends on the golf course drinking bloody mary’s while we stay home grading papers and lesson planning (because let’s face it, our “prep” hour doesn’t cut it).

      • Who comes up with these questions? And why are we held accountable for why our kids don’t get it? In our English department we took one district-created benchmark, and most of us scored around 85% because WE (many of us with Master’s degrees) couldn’t understand what the questions were asking. Some accountability!

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