Teacher Community Angst.. What is a Bad Teacher?


Who is a bad teacher? Who decides?

When Innovation and STEM were considered unusual...


In some of the press, recently teachers have been attacked in many different ways. The initial assault was months ago with a pose of Michelle Rhee on the cover of a national magazine. The story gained national attention and the story started a whole new perspective , a look at what is called a BAD teacher.  Since that time there have been a raft of stories with test scores as the reason that teachers were being tagged as being unfit. There was even a teacher suicide that was hardly reported. The suicide was based on the LA TImes ” revelation or assumption ” that the teacher was unfit,

What is a Bad Teacher?

I am not sure what most people consider a bad teacher but the press began to collect evidence , or build the case for bad teachers and the articles continued, without a stop until the movie, “Waiting for Superman” . By that time the stories were at a fever pitch. The Los Angeles Times created even more furor by publishing information on teachers that had to do with testing and the assumption that a teacher was a bad teacher if the students had low test scores.

I think I would have been considered a bad teacher in some of the schools in which I taught though I taught , gave, contributed and worked overtime to make a difference. I taught in Washington DC. I am a long time teacher and have lived through the fashion of educational change of decades. I have lived through unit methods, team teaching, new math, a Nation at Risk, New Standards. I probably have missed a few of the educational dictates.

New Ideas in Teaching and Learning

Think  benchmarks, Hands On Science, New Math , Independent reading vs Textbook reading, the pendulum changed with the dictate of political pressure.

Sometimes I moved to new schools, and sometimes I stayed and tried to wait until the new educational mandate came. I never feared for my job but once or twice, but I have been harassed, bullied, and transferred to another school. Sometimes it was personality, sometimes it was that I worked too hard without involving other teachers , and was successful. Sometimes it was that I was dazzling parents and community members, school children with the expertise that I gained from learning partners, NASA, National Geographic, NSTA, Earthwatch, NCTM, AAGE, .. How I loved attending the workshops, using the resources, the various outreach that happened by working with learning partners. I was so pleased to be an AAAS demonstration teacher.

My mother and father were teachers and when I got upset, they calmed me and advised me. I admit that being a teacher who helped to integrate schools across the spectrum was hard. I never experienced difficulty from other teachers until I started to use technology. Playing , with computing I was told was a problem. I was taking away valuable time from teaching. Doing field trips often and going to learning places, what a waste of time. Other complaints doing enrichment using resources from NASA. Inside my head, as I was winning awards nationally and getting in difficulty with administrators because I was becoming a teacher ” star” I was probably considered to be a bad teacher.

I am of color, I am a minority, I came from schools that were marginal in their preparation of me and others as a teacher. I graduated without difficulty and with honors.  When I had taught for three years, I escaped the profession by going to Europe to teach. The first three years of my teaching were hard years. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of my students.

There are secrets in teaching that bothered me. I was trying to teach everything, some other teachers mocked me as I taught science, and social studies, .. eventually I was told , teach reading , math and spelling .. the rest is extra and if you have time fill it in. Well, I never did that .. I had been trained as a gifted and talented teacher and loved teaching science and new math. That made me a BAD teacher. I wanted to teach the kids that were not identifies as Gifted and Talented.. I worried about tracking.

There were students who had all kinds of problems, homeless students, poor students, students who had parents going through divorce, a couple of girls who were suffering from sexual  relationships against their will and even more difficult problems. Once a child who was being sexually compromised as an adoptee, shared her angst with me. Interestingly enough my pursuit of her concerns made me a bad teacher.

I was able to survive because I wrote grants, got national attention and learned to involve community.

So what is a bad teacher…I know what I wanted to do with that broom that Ms. Rhee used in her pose. I admit that I was hurt, angry and saddened that a person who had the power to change teaching and learning could so openly blame tie ills of society on teachers .

Teaching is hard work. Being a good teacher or one of the best is even harder work. The press has been unmerciful and mean. It is time to stop trashing teachers and look at the problems of society that affect our children. Most of the time I have loved working with students. The current media position on teachers even for teachers in the District of Columbia, does not consider the reality of the job, parental involvement or not, and or problems of the community.

Teachers and students work together in some schools that are pointed toward the future.  The power of us is to make change and to demonstrate the possibilities.

MetLife Survey of the American Teacher

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Collaborating for Student Success examines the views of teachers, principals and students about respective roles and responsibilities, current practice and priorities for the future, addressing the issues of effective teaching and leadership, student achievement and teaching as a career (2009).ED509650

The Survey report was originally released in three parts, which have been combined into the document posted above:

  • Part 1: Effective Teaching and Leadership examines views about responsibility and accountability; what collaboration looks like in schools, and if and to what degree it is currently practiced.
  • Part 2: Student Achievement examines views on student goals, teacher expectations, and what educators believe would increase student achievement.
  • Part 3: Teaching as a Career examines collaboration in the context of teacher professional growth, experience level and career paths.

Home-to-School Connections Guide: Tips, Tech Tools, and Strategies for Improving Family-to-School Communication

Edutopia shares with youtheir  latest classroom resource guide highlighting new solutions for connecting home and school in order to improve student learning and success.

Whether you’re a teacher, parent, or district administrator, this new guide provides  relevant and valuable tools and resources for how best to strengthen the bonds between schools, families, and communities.


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