Monday, April 24, 2006

*Kindergarten to Rose Garden

Kindergarten to Rose Garden - Washington Post

Md. Kindergarten Teacher Is Honored - Washington Post

Teaching school is a noble profession, if there ever was one, and I certainly would never want to take anything away from outstanding teachers, like the recently recognized Kimberly Oliver, in Silver Spring, MD. She sounds wonderful and just the kind of teacher I would want for my children.

However, I am being perfectly honest when I say that I have had an equal number of good and bad teachers in my previous nineteen years of school. This really should come as no surprise when you consider that the performance of teachers should reasonably fall on a normal distribution, insuring that for every exceptional teacher, somewhere there exists someone struggling to get through the day without smacking a kid.

Herein resides the problem. How can a noble profession reconcile underperformers? What’s more, how do you get rid of these underperformers when they are revealed? Anecdotally, I have seen abusive teachers shifted, transferred, and babysat by aids, principals, and concerned parents, until they could be moved to another school’s unsuspecting rolls. In no case have I ever seen a teacher fired for bad teaching, in a public school.

The reality is that there are no truly noble professions, just people who act nobly. Unfortunately the teacher’s union uses the noble profession ‘shield’ to protect too many teachers who really should be off doing something they like, instead of counter-balancing the impact of their above average peers.

If it is not too much of a stretch for us to accept that medical doctors and lawyers come in all forms of competence, deserving of scrutiny and occasional sanction, then maybe someday we will get to the point where we can accept that bad teachers do indeed exist, do more harm than their union representatives should ever defend, and that kids, society, and the profession each pay the price.

I offer congratulations, as a long-time student and parent, to the many tens of thousands of great teachers who gave Ms. Oliver competition for her award. Keep up the good work.

James C. Collier


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