Posts Tagged ‘predictions’

Our Failing Public Schools – Part I, Section 4: Some of the problems teachers face in doing their jobs effectively; Is there a solution?

April 1, 2012

Unrealistic curriculum in Teacher Education Programs (TEP)

I’ve alluded to a few of the requirements in the TEP of California, and perhaps other states as well. One of the most hated by all teachers is CLAD: Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development. As is clear from the title, this was foisted upon teachers both new and existing due to the inordinate amount of immigrants into California, including those who are illegal. (That problem is discussed in depth in “Our Failing Public Schools, Part III: Illegal Immigration”.) CLAD consists of four full courses:

“Learners enrolled in this program gain a depth of knowledge regarding current theories and research in the specialized instruction of English-language development. They will develop a foundation for understanding cultural differences among English learners-and how those differences relate to academic achievement in a culturally inclusive environment. Language structure and use, and first- and second-language development is investigated. Throughout the program, strategies for instruction and assessment of a linguistically diverse student body are addressed.”

No other country in the world allows illegal aliens to attend their public schools, let alone makes special concessions that cost taxpayers vast amounts of money in order to educate them. Teachers pay for the privilege of learning how to accommodate the annual influx of students who do not speak, read or write English. As I recall, one TEP course was devoted to the teaching of children with learning disabilities, one course was devoted to the psychology of children in general, and two courses were intended to teach classroom management, which is the most critical issue all new teachers must face. But four courses are dedicated to “cultural differences”? What ever happened to the “melting pot” theory, where all legal immigrants were welcomed into the American culture?

One of the courses I was forced to take was on cultural diversity. Sounds fine in theory, but the teacher was an African-American and focused on how ill-treated African-Americans were in our public school system. We were assigned to write an essay on the history of Ebonics — that’s right, that alleged sub-language — and I wrote that it was simply poor English, not meeting any of the criteria for a separate language (which has subsequently been determined). Never mind the grade I received; the point is having to take such a course at all that emphasizes separation rather than cohesion.

Within the world of education, there is no disagreement that establishing a “learning environment” is the first priority of a teacher. If the class is unruly, if students feel threatened in any way, they are not going to be able to learn, or not very well. In my opinion, and that of many colleagues, child psychology and classroom management were subjects that should have been stressed in all states. Clearly, California politicians, who established the requirements of the TEP, are much more concerned about political correctness than in what a teacher really needs to know in order to succeed.

Little Teacher Support

In business, a good manager does not only pass on orders, they pass on knowledge and experience. In other words, they mentor the workers under their authority. Of course, they have great incentive to do so. Good workers make a manager look effective, which means raises and promotions. Effective departments usually mean profitability for the company. In all successful companies, there is a clear goal that requires a great deal of teamwork. Usually, lack of teamwork and isolated actions leads to failure.

Traditionally, there has been very little support for teachers in the classroom. While there are principals and vice-principals, those administrators are not managers in the sense of either mentoring or even monitoring the teachers. Even though the scores of students are in many ways a measure of a principal, administrators in most respects are much more closely aligned to outside entities — the school district and board, and now the state — than they are to the workers immediately under their authority. Their primary duties involve budget, supplies, curriculum, discipline, school-wide activities, maintenance, management of external services, and so on, but not the actual process of education. During my first year as a teacher-of-record in classrooms, my “student mentor” visited me three times during the year. My first year as a credentialed teacher, the VP who was responsible for evaluating my performance visited my classroom twice, for less than one period each time. In all cases, they wrote an evaluation of me as a teacher, with nary a word of how I might handle problems or improve my instructional techniques.

In 1997, the California Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) Induction Program was instituted. During the last few years, many schools and districts have taken this program more seriously, although it is still marginal in many districts. Experienced teachers are given extra pay and some preparation time to mentor new teachers. They go into the classroom on a regular basis, observe the proceedings, and later discuss management, instruction, and other relevant topics to their mentee. If asked, they will on occasion model a lesson or management. While this program has a very limited time and scope, it’s still much better than the nothing that existed before.

While programs such as BTSA were slowly contributing to teacher retention, the current economic situation will soon destroy all gains. Now, even tenured teachers are being laid off, classrooms are being staffed with student teachers in such alternative-certification programs as Teach America and Project Pipeline, and even those teachers face probable layoffs before they gain tenure in order to hire new beginning teachers who come cheaply.

I’m not denigrating any of those programs: how a teacher comes to learn their job does not matter. As in any profession, it takes several years to learn how to put their school training into effective practice. If the system continues to get rid of experienced teachers in order to save money, the students suffer even more, and young people considering a career path are completely discouraged from thinking about teaching.

Is there a solution?

As I stated before, I honestly think most people who go into teaching, both young and old, want to contribute to the society, and want to help children grow into productive adults. If I were to be asked by a high school or college student whether or not they could do the state and country a good service by becoming a teacher, however, I would advise them to study the law. Not that I think we need more lawyers, or that many lawyers have altruistic intentions when entering law school. It’s because I think we need more lawyers who would make good teachers in those positions of power. After all, most politicians have a law degree, whether or not they passed the bar.

Rather than enter the frustration of the current educational system, I would say to those young people: Go into the law. Become an advocate for positive change to our political and economic systems. Become a legislator and fight for bills that will make the system better, that will benefit children and adults alike. As a teacher, you will have very little power to change more than a few lives, and it gets harder every year because of the restrictions put on teachers as to how they can discipline, influence and even teach their students. Teachers are privates in the war; cannon-fodder to be sacrificed by the generals to serve their ambitions. Become one of the generals.

A Doom and Gloom Prediction: The New Owners of the Golden State Warriors are Repeating the Mistakes of the Past

March 15, 2012

In November of 2010, I wrote an article about the new owners of the Golden State Warriors, Joseph Lacob and Peter Guber. I extolled their virtues, and claimed that the people of Northern California would someday rejoice that they had beaten the odds to buy the team, one of the lamest in the NBA.

These men were not the bumbling, reclusive, penny-pinching Chris Cohan, nor the flamboyant, egotistical, win-at-all-cost billionaire Larry Ellison. They were solid businessmen, savvy in the ways of both sports and marketing. They had a plan, and would follow it in a sound manner until the team was a winning product and the entire area could bask in the respectability they brought throughout the nation.

Today came The Trade. I confess I’m neither an NBA expert nor Cassandra or Michael Nostradamus. But there can only be one logical conclusion: there is a curse upon the owners of the Golden State Warriors.

I listened to the press conference tonight as General Manager Larry Riley announced that the Warriors were sending guard Monta Ellis, center Ekpe Udoh, and the contract for center Kwame Brown to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for center Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. As a mere fan, I was stunned. Where was the sense of this?

We’ve seen Stack Jack’s Act. He’s cleaned up his act a lot, but is still a volatile, unreliable personality and player. He’s a streak scorer; he defends a lot better than Ellis, but has nowhere near the scoring averages and creativity of the smaller man. Andrew Bogut is a fine fellow, an All-Star quality player—when he’s healthy. But that’s very questionable at the present, in spite of Riley’s assurances that they had consulted with 500 physicians and 27 astrologists. And both Udoh and Brown had the potential (aye, there’s the rub!) to develop into splendid centers.

So now the two keys to the team are Bogut and Stephen Curry, a splendid center/point guard combination that could be the cornerstone of a playoff team—if either one can stay healthy. They have one good foot and one good ankle between them, and no guarantee that either will play more than half a season ever again. That’s your cornerstone?

I say that’s desperation. Why couldn’t the Warriors wait until the next draft, when they might be in a position to draft a great future big man? Were they clearing space? They certainly weren’t dumping salary. So what’s up? What indeed will the future bring?

There were only two great predictors in history: Nostradamus and Cassandra. Unfortunately, almost everything they foretold was a total disaster. I can only hope that, in seeing doom and gloom for this trade engineered by the current owners, I will not fall into the same category.