by Fil Barnes, science teacher.
I am not a perfect person. It is easy to say that, because none of us are.
I am, however, an excellent teacher.
I would not know this from the evaluations given to me by principals and “educational specialists,” nor by my students’ success in my class, on state tests, or in college and career. Yes, I do have all of that which I could point to – if any of it had anything to do with the whole point of being an effective teacher. I will argue, though, that while all of those things have affected my career, and occasionally do align with being a good teacher, they are not what makes a teacher excellent.
Ask any teacher who is serious about being a teacher, why they chose that path. Everyone who read that sentence knows the answer.
Not one will say, “I just thought I could help students to perform better on high-stakes standardized tests.”
Nor will you hear, “I enjoy following mandated lesson plans which were developed by unnamed sources who are apparently far less qualified than I.”
So, what is the answer?
A typical teacher would say,
“I love my subject, and I want to help students learn to appreciate it as much as I do.”
I am an excellent teacher for one reason. Most of my students leave my classes with a different self-identification toward science than they had before they walked in the door. Many of those students arrived on the first day of class, flopped into a seat and said, “I don’t have anything against you, I am just not a science person,” have graduated knowing that, in some ways, they really are.
I have no idea what direction this is going to take. I just believe that it is time that all of this nonsense stops, and we let teachers start to teach again. We want our athletes, at every level, to play “for love of the game,” and we pay them exorbitant amounts of money to do it. It is time to say to politicians and administrators, “you have not met a teacher who is in it for the money, so why not let us do it for the right reason? We love the game, let us play it at our best.”
I assume this is going to be a collection of loosely connected pieces concerning the inane manner in which students and teachers have been treated for far too long. Along the way, I will discuss high-stakes testing, mandated lesson plans, the data fad, “educational specialists,” rubrics, and whatever else comes to mind. Maybe nobody will ever read it – maybe everybody should.