How many references to “teacher-bashing” turned up on a quick “Google-search? Would you believe about 2.6 million?
For those not used to working on the Internet, “Google” is a quick way of gathering information on a particular subject. It’s clear that the term is used constantly. But I don’t think it helps anyone – educators, schools, or most important, students.
Teachers, or people who see themselves as their allies use the term constantly. It refers to criticisms of teachers.
People working in the most effective public schools don’t refer to critics as “teacher-bashers.” They listen to it. Some they agree with, and some seems inaccurate. But they don’t waste time or energy writing letters or essays about unfair, inaccurate, “teacher-bashers.” Sometimes they find ways to work with their critics to help young people. For example:
- One school encountered families who complained constantly about what happened during recess on the playground. The teachers and principal worked with these families to create a new, better playground, with more efficient supervision.
- Some educators have turned some business critics into allies via tutoring, mentoring and other partnerships.
- Some educators have learned from critics about how to make more efficient use of technology and other resources.
Unquestionably some people (including me, sometimes) say schools can and should do a better job. Do schools and teachers have a difficult job? Yes. Is there considerable admiration for teachers and schools that succeed? Yes.
Teachers, like people in other professions like law, medicine, banking, react to criticism in varying ways. Some ignore it. Some try to learn from it. Some challenge it. And, some criticism of each profession is fair and accurate and some not.
But there is another dimension to criticism involving education that I don’t see in other fields. That is the constant criticism of students and families. Every week I read something by an educator saying essentially, “Don’t blame us. The real problems come from the students and families, along with poverty, crime and other factors that schools can’t control.” As one teacher wrote recently “The difference in test scores is related to what happens in the rest of their lives,” not what happens in classrooms.
The problem with such assertions is that there is an enormous amount of experience and research showing that public schools CAN have a huge, positive impact.
Having been a teacher, and being in schools 2-3 times a week, I agree that some students and families present considerable challenge. At times, those challenges seem almost overwhelming. Having said that, all over the nation there are examples of teachers and entire public schools, district and charter, that are doing a magnificent job with these young people.
Some educators learn from these schools. Some educators skillfully develop partnerships with families, business and community groups that are hugely helpful to youngsters. And some spend their time and energy dismissing critics as “teacher bashers.” Openness and collaboration are more likely to produce progress.