Supporting our Teachers

This week’s readings reminded me of the value of teachers/educators, something that is often forgotten in today’s world. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have a mother who was an elementary and middle school teacher, so I witnessed second-hand many of the issues a modern teacher faces.

As Ken Robinson eloquently points out in his TED talk, teachers are “facilitators of learning”, rather than figures who simply deliver information to their students. This is a creative career, rather than a business-oriented one. It’s a career that requires teachers to “awaken the power” of their student’s creativity and empower them to learn and find their passion. But now, teachers often feel pressure from their administration to act and dress professionally– which, in my opinion, creates a further divide between teachers and students.

Robinson mentions that people are organic creatures. We are naturally diverse and unique. So, rather than focusing on standardized testing and conformity, why not shift our focus to educational systems that are personalized, offer strong support, provide diverse curriculums, and attract students from all backgrounds? In conversations with my mom, she always mentioned how she observed a shift in her students learning habits after standardized testing became the norm. Rather than mindfully learning, students began mindlessly reciting information that they expected to be on the next test.

Other countries greatly value professional development, put less focus on standardized testing, and hold educators in high esteem. Why is that not the case here? I’m sure this question has a very convoluted answer, and I am excited to learn more about America’s educational system and where it can be improved.

Not completely on topic with this week’s readings, but here’s something to keep in mind about Robinson’s TED talk: this was filmed in 2013, when No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was the standard, before Common Core Curriculum Standards (CCCS) became alive. Now, both ideas have merit, and both have many issues. For NCLB, the federal government did not give states enough financial support to make it as successful as it could have been. States began adopting CCCS because it had uniformity across state lines, but unfortunately had a huge focus on Standardized Testing. New Jersey, where my mom taught for a decade before her (welcoming) retirement, was one of the first states to jump on the bandwagon of CCCS. They expected their teachers, in a single year, to implement CCCS without proper transition time or training. It was pretty outrageous, IMO.

There are pros and cons to all educational approaches, NCLB and CCCS included. Who knows what will happen in terms of education with the new administration. More than likely they will try to fix everything including things that are not broken. Time will tell!



4 thoughts on “Supporting our Teachers

  1. I enjoyed your post. While NCLB did create a culture of teaching to the test and drill and kill in some schools, it also provided the impetus to make schools pay attention to ALL students. Because test scores had to be disaggregated by race and disability status, and all subgroups had to meet the standards, achievement gaps lessened. However, the stipulation that 100% of students in each school must be working at grade level by 2014 was unrealistic. Unfortunately, too many schools focused on getting students to pass the tests than on teaching students the curriculum.
    If we had great tests, then the best way to pass them would be to learn the curriculum. If the curriculum is challenging, then this is a good thing, And teaching to the test becomes a good thing. I think that the International Baccalaureate Diploma program is a great example of this. Great curriculum, great tests for which the best way to prepare is to engage with the curriculum. Little memorization and lots of thinking. Too bad they cost so much to develop and grade!
    I think we need great teachers and administrators who trust them to do their job. We need to use standardized tests to measure what our students our doing in a way that lets us compare our students to students in other states and countries. What we don’t need are punitive measures based on test scores.


  2. Thank you for your post Maria. You bring up some great points about how sometimes efforts to fix things makes things worse. As a professional counselor one of the things that we have to keep in mind is “not to fix” things for anyone but to let the client work on that. Sometimes that means to be able to support them through worse times so that they can get to better times. Something like walking through the rain to get to the rainbow. As as educator, I sometimes wonder how much we can scaffold for learners or even the educational system to support it through changes that are not only important but imperative…


  3. I like how you mention that being a teacher is a creative career rather than a business-orient career. I know when I was going through grade school I found that teachers that were excited by what they did and had a creative way of conveying information has a positive impact on me. Those teachers that were boring/went line-by-line through the information they had to teach were the ones that I got the least out of.

    I understand the need for making sure a curriculum is uniform across at least a state. But when making sure the curriculum is uniform stifles the creativity then something has to change.

    I’m a little fuzzy on CCCS, but from what little I have read about it and what the acronym means I feel that they are just a set of standards/requirements that a teach needs to make sure to meet when teaching. Aside from that, the teacher has the ability to decide how to teach the information. If that is the case then why can teachers not have a creative way of teaching the information they need to make sure to cover?


  4. Thank you for sharing some updates on the NCLB and CCCS, I wasn’t aware of that until you mentioned. Indeed, there is no educational reform that has not a side of controversy but I consider Standardized very detrimental ti student’s learning as they encourage passive learning and plain rote culture.


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