Elite Professionals

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8 thoughts on “Elite Professionals”

  1. It is the old contrast between content skills and pedagogy skills. They are both important. I’ve been embarrassed for a visiting Spanish teacher to my class who clearly could not understand what I was saying to her. I had to switch to English. On the other hand, we have some brilliant teachers who are unable to communicate on a level for their high school students to understand them.

    I’ve heard arguments that in countries like Finland (yeah, I know–we’ve been beaten over the head with that comparison), teachers are chosen from among the top students and teaching is a well-respected, in- demand profession. Is there any correlation, or is something else going on there?

    The perception is that teachers in the States teach because they can’t do something else. Why is there this perception? Does is matter?

  2. I have my 9-12 job because I replaced a woman who could not teach and had no interest in teaching high school students. She went on to teach at the college level. I think it is less messy – teach a little, assign a bunch, assess, have some office hours, do the political/professional stuff and if the kids don’t get it, oh well.

  3. Robert Harrell

    I dislike the elitist attitude of the writer, but there are some valid points to be made.
    1. Not everyone can teach. This is the point that the writer misses. Teaching is not just the transmission of knowledge. If it were, computers could take over the process much more efficiently. Education is not “the process by which information is transferred from the notebook of the teacher to the notebook of the student without ever having gone through the mind of either.” To some people, though, this means that teachers ought to be a “corps of elite professionals”.
    2. As Lori points out, both content competence and pedagogical competence are necessary. If either is lacking, the result will not be good teaching. It might be good “hanging out” or good “transfer of knowledge”, but it won’t be good teaching. Here is where there needs to be work done – administrators need to be able to discern who has both, and teaching candidates need to work on both sets of competencies.
    3. The history of the K-12 teaching profession leads to much of the disdain in which teachers are held. Think about the stereotypical image of the teacher. She is female, so not invested with power. She is often young and single but expected to marry at some point, so saving for retirement is not an issue (in the minds of the power holders). If she doesn’t marry, she will live “modestly” as a spinster. If she marries, her husband will take care of her. In any case, she doesn’t need much money. In rural schools particularly, the “schoolmarm” often had little more education than a high school diploma (sometimes not even that) and a few “teacher-training courses”. All of that adds up to lack of respect. Even though the reality has changed, the perception has not.
    4. Having been a frontier nation, and having had the stereotype of a teacher as given above, and having developed an ethos of entrepreneurialism and anti-intellectualism (as opposed to the European respect for the intellectual), we have encapsulated that antagonism in the aphorism, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” The fact that it is occasionally true gives it credence; the fact that it is generally false is ignored.
    5. The profession has traditionally not done a very good job of policing itself. We all know or know of teachers who should not be in the classroom. While it is easy (and true) for us to say that administrators are not doing their jobs if these teachers remain, a professional organization should also be putting pressure on its members to improve. I’m not talking about the union, although that could be part of the solution, but about the requirements of the profession. Instead, the credentialing agencies seem to be getting laxer all the time. In California the Commission on Teacher Credentialing has gone to an online renewal process. I merely have to click a button that I have done my “required” professional development and send in my money. I am taking a chance that there will be an audit asking for paperwork to prove the professional development, but the Commission is so behind in its work that the chances of an audit are minimal.
    6. I do think the call for something to raise the estimation of the teaching profession in the eyes of the (re)public is a good one. Better training and better compensation would definitely help, but it is unlikely that better compensation will come before the profession is elevated in the minds of others.
    7. This article still sees K-12 teachers as second-class citizens. Yes, they can be a “professional elite”, but they are the second-string “professional elite” – the ones who couldn’t make it into the college/university league, so they have to settle for the K-12 league. The elitist attitude of the writer shows through very clearly.
    8. There are an awful lot of undefined terms here. “Credible authority figures” – what does that mean? Credible in terms of what? What kind of authority – moral or merely coercive?
    9. There are also some incredibly large presuppositions here – including the assumption that university teachers are predominantly and significantly better teachers than K-12 teachers. Years ago I read a study – unfortunately I have forgotten where or by whom – that indicated people think someone knows more about a subject if they don’t understand him, whether he truly knows much or not. Students at the university level often have the propensity to think well of their professors, so these “supporting documents” of student evaluations should probably carry little weight. There is also the presupposition that the university model of teaching is superior; many of us know that it often is not.

    1. Robert, I’m glad you post your comments for us to all read. Your observation of our “frontier” “ethos” was quite enlightening, as was the reminder of the role gender played/plays in how we look at the profession.

      Re Finland Lori, I’m not sure if this is germane to your question, but as Krashen and others point out, Finland has a child poverty rate of under 4%, while the U.S. is upwards of 20%, and we (those of us outside of US DOE) all know what that means for student performance and therefore teacher cred.

      1. good point. I’ve often read that our middle-class students do indeed stack up well against any other country in the world. I hadn’t thought of how that might affect teacher credibility, though. I may have to mull that over.

  4. Many, many years ago I took a course that was required for anyone intending to be a teacher called “Human Growth and Development”. It was taught by a quirky psychologist called Dr. Kaump. She repeated continuously that our education system was upside down. She said the most critical teacher in a a child’s life is the kindergarten teacher, and the most intelligent, most highly skilled and highly paid teachers should be in kindergarten and primary school. She said that the teachers with weak skills and slight knowledge should be in college, where they will do the least harm.

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