Losing judgement… on other teachers

20 Jan

Through someone’s else’s blog, I just read an article from 2008 by Malcolm Gladwell on teachers. Aside from learning more than I asked for on the differences of college football vs. the NFL, I really liked all that it had to say on education too. Except I found myself surprisingly… less impassioned about some ideas I used to be very impassioned about. Without even knowing it, I think having taught at two more schools in the last couple of years has affected that change.

Anyways, a few quotes from the article to comment on:

Teacher effects are also much stronger than class-size effects. You’d have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you’d get if you switched from an average teacher to a teacher in the eighty-fifth percentile.

I have to agree. EXCEPT, teaching such huge classes year in and year out is exhausting and starts to create a bad teacher from a good one.

Teaching should be open to anyone with a pulse and a college degree—and teachers should be judged after they have started their jobs, not before. That means that the profession needs to start the equivalent of Ed Deutschlander’s training camp. It needs an apprenticeship system that allows candidates to be rigorously evaluated. Kane and Staiger have calculated that, given the enormous differences between the top and the bottom of the profession, you’d probably have to try out four candidates to find one good teacher. That means tenure can’t be routinely awarded, the way it is now. Currently, the salary structure of the teaching profession is highly rigid, and that would also have to change in a world where we want to rate teachers on their actual performance. An apprentice should get apprentice wages. But if we find eighty-fifth-percentile teachers who can teach a year and a half’s material in one year, we’re going to have to pay them a lot—both because we want them to stay and because the only way to get people to try out for what will suddenly be a high-risk profession is to offer those who survive the winnowing a healthy reward.

Teacher’s training camp?! That would be kind of awesome. But I already know I wouldn’t have made it back then because teaching brought out in me qualities I never really knew I had back when I had first started. The love for the students makes a person change, seek better, reach higher. The teacher I was my first year of teaching is so starkly different from who I am today. I know I’m not the best teacher out there, but I love my profession and I’m pretty good at what I do. I would hate to have not been given this amazing opportunity b/c of such a camp. Plus, how do you simulate a real classroom? Have you heard any teacher stories of late?!

I think Gladwell says it best in the end:

But there is nothing like being an N.F.L. quarterback except being an N.F.L. quarterback. A prediction, in a field where prediction is not possible, is no more than a prejudice.

I love that last line. In a field where prediction is not possible, there can be way too much prejudice.

Don’t judge me. I’m a teacher.  😉

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