Is it a bird?
Is it a plane?
No, it’s … the super-teacher who isn’t thrown off track by the most snot-nosed interruptions from the last row.
It’s the intrepid educator who never loses his temper and will not rest until the last child has fully understood the subject matter, even if they’re spending most of their lesson sending each other Angry Birds rip-offs via Bluetooth.
But where is the super-teacher when you need him?
Why doesn’t he teach our children?
As Ellie Herman pointed out in an article in the LA Times, the Super-Teacher is missing everywhere because he’s a myth.
He (or his super-human female variation she) is no way less imaginary than Santa Claus and his flying reindeers.
For, in the same way flying reindeers would depend on either a suspension of gravity or an alteration of their delicate legs into full-fledged wings, the teacher has to rely on certain conditions.
When The Rubber Meets The Road
When an average class-size holds about 30 children who are on a whole galaxy of different developmental levels in terms of behavior and knowledge, who is supposed to bridge that?
When one kid gets medication against ADD, the other one is suffering from a divorce drama and a few others are making their first advances into puberty, teaching is the last thing you’ll do.
Like many others, I’ve experienced these situations live and direct, from day to day.
On your contract it says you’re an English teacher. But in reality you’re classroom groundskeeper or zookeeper, pick your poison.
Colleagues used to come to me to complain that their students had behavioral problems on such a scale that they were holding up everything and when talking to students’ parents they were told it’s their own problem since they are the teachers.
No matter our opinions about such exchanges Who’s to blame for bad education? is not really the question.
How to teach in ever-deteriorating public school conditions, that’s the question.
Is it even possible? What are the outlooks?
The Poor, The Rich And The Educated
It’s a fact that there are alternatives to public education.
And if we’re talking about private schools or private tutoring, paying parents – while not having any more influence on the quality of the teacher – do guarantee certain conditions like lower average number of students in a class, more availability of materials, etc.
It’s true that private schools do not automatically provide better teachers and teaching.
But neither can the best teacher work miracles in the worst of conditions.
As Herman points out who works at a High School in Los Angeles, she’ll “never be excellent if we continue to slash education budgets and cut teachers”
We have all heard this argument many times.
If there was only more money, public education would change for the better.
After all, we can see it with private institutions. Even if they have their own problems, they certainly aren’t doing worse.
Why Money Alone Will Not Transform Education
It’s not a secret that educational facilities (especially those funded by local governments) are facing huge problems.
Classes with simply too many students and growing socioeconomic differences due to globalization and urbanization are stretching teachers beyond their psychological limits, leading to stress and eventual burn-out.
Money could employ more teachers.
To quote Herman again:”To teach each child in my classroom, I have to know each child in my classroom.”
That means that in order to teach all children, class-sizes would have to be low enough to enable a teacher to establish a one-on-one relationship with each one of them.
But where to draw the line? What’s the perfect ratio? 1:10? 1:5? Or the private 1:1?
As I’ve discussed before, private tutoring is actually experiencing a revival at the moment.
The growing business developing around private online teaching sessions is enormous.
And prices don’t even have to be astronomical.
In the end, it’s up to parents to decide whether to invest time, effort (and money) in an alternative to public education, or not.
Everyone who can afford to buy a plasma television and a smartphone contract can afford a good private teacher, these days, especially if extending the search worldwide on an online-basis.
It’s a bit different than paying high monthly tuition-fees for private tutoring and then being rid of the responsibilty.
It’s more like working closely together with a teacher, establishing custom lesson plans and meetings either in place of or in addition to the kids’ other obligatory schooling.
The moment when people will actually choose to hire a teacher instead of buying the next generation hi-definition TV, this is when we’ll see a shift.
What we need is not just more budgets.
We need to re-evaluate the role of education on a personal level.
What does it mean? Why are we doing it? Do we really care? Or would we rather just pay and be rid of it?
thanks to @nikitashraim for making me aware of the LA Times article
img: Some rights reserved by Andrea Marutti