Slugging it Out Over ATRs at Gotham, Part 1

    Ariel Sacks, a 4th year middle school teacher in Brooklyn, has written a piece on ATRs at Gotham that has ignited a fire storm. See ATRs in the Teachers Lounge.

    There are 60 c0mments and counting, with all sides chipping in. The Fiorillo comments are always worth tracking, as are Mr. Talk and Michael M. Of course, I agree with their sentiments. Sacks is undergoing quite a thrashing, while being defended by the usual anti-teacher crowd. She seems to really resent having people around her school who she feels don't work as hard as her but get paid more. It seems logical to some people that she is right. Naturally, I don't agree.

    More interesting is the hysteria over the possibility that there are some potentially bad teachers out there. HELLO!

    Believe me, I had my share of bad teachers as a kid and saw a few as a teacher. But the overwhelming majority of teachers were competent, though I think the number of great/bad teachers would come out to about the same numbers. In fact, most teachers are pretty good but few are great. Yet the ed deformers predicate their program on having all teachers be great. That's like saying you cannot have a good baseball game unless all players are a the level of Willie Mays.

    No matter how hard people huff and puff to get rid of bad teachers - for instance, measure them by test scores and I bet you lose as many good ones as bad ones. In fact I surmise more honest teachers who understand and try to teach realistically will go down the drain, while the free loaders will figure out the easy ways to get better scores and never worry about really trying to teach in the best manner that meets the needs of the kids.

    Look at the numbers of teachers and how many leave the job in droves within 5 years - both good and bad. The replacement factor automatically brings in a new crop of bad (and good) teachers with every round. These people get to experiment on the kids for a few years until they are denied tenure. Think of the effort - and hot air - spewing forth about removing teachers. I would rather have a 10 year bad teacher than a 2 year bad teacher. Either way, you're going to get them anyway.

    My answer it to figure out a way to make the best use of whatever talents they have. There is really a lot of useful work to do in a school and some would rather do any work other than teach.

    Not to say that there are impossible cases that bug their colleagues even more than the outside "experts" like Kristof and Brooks. I always believed if teachers ran the schools - even hiring the principal (along with parents) - their fellow teachers who were goof-offs would shape up or ship out. And there are certainly a bunch of people who are actually competent but don't want to work very hard or don't think much of the kids.

    By the way, there are teachers who don't like kids all that much but actually teach pretty well and there are teachers who love the kids but can't teach their way out of a paper bag. There are teachers who put in a tremendous amount of time and those who don't, but don't judge them by that factor. I had to put in time because I was not organized. We should factor in the organized factor in talking about good teachers. I could get in front of a class on a dime and teach my ass off with almost no prep. Creativity sometimes seemed to flow out of me. Other times not. Getting the stuff ready drove me crazy, as did marking papers. So if you saw me in my various roles I played as a teacher, you could find many levels of competency from bad to sometimes great. (I do think today I would be a very different teacher than I was. But certainly not in the world of BloomKlein.)

    Want to think about bad and good teachers? Think back to the ones you had as a kid and rate them on a 1-5 scale. Now if your kids had to rate you as a teacher, how do you think you would do? What about parents rating you? What about the principal? And your colleagues like Ariel Sacks? Better not go there. I bet the numbers might vary considerably depending on the audience rating you. Then factor in the scores your kids get on tests as your rating. How would that change the way you teach? Not for the better, I bet, though the lower level, non creative types would do better.

    And by creative, I do not mean drawing pretty pictures, but creativity in reaching deep into the minds of kids and coming up with ways to hold their interest and stimulate them, a skill great teachers have, but a skill not values in the world of ed deform.


    Part 2 will address the hysteria over bad teachers compared to other professions that can harm kids much worse than a bad teacher: police harassing black kids, lower quality doctors and other health professionals in the poorer neighborhoods, less competent military leaders when poor kids get to Afghanistan? Lousy court appointed lawyers to defend the overwhelmingly high numbers of Black kids than white kids - no one want to talk about that gap. Oh yeah, and when they have passed through the school to prison pipeline, they meet a few prison guards that just may be more harmful than the bad teachers.

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Slugging it Out Over ATRs at Gotham, Part 1


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