Monday, May 29, 2006


Over the weekend I had a traumatic blogging experience. As the school year has wound down, I've read a number of posts by teachers who found the end of the school year very stressful. On Saturday, I read a post by Anonymous Teacher, who expressed those same feelings, and I decided to comment. Anonymous Teacher is in her first year, and I've been teaching for 32, so I thought I'd wow her with my wisdom. In the comment, I said that the school year always gets easier for me as it goes along, in part, because I always have some non-performers who drop out of my class and go to the ALC.

Ms. H. from Teaching in Texas was not impressed. In a response to my comment, she lambasted me! She implied that I am a lousy teacher and human being, she said that she hoped she would never become as jaded as me, and she sarcastically referred to me as "Public Education's Self-Proclaimed 'Defender'." Ouch!

I wanted to explain myself, so I responded to her in another comment on Anonymous Teacher's site. I wanted to make absolutely sure that Ms. H. would see it, so I also copied it and put it on Ms. H's. site. When I checked later, I found that she had deleted it. I guess she let me know what I can do with my olive branch. Ouch again!

This experience, along with a book I am reading by Jay Greene, has inspired me to start a series of posts that I will title PUBLIC EDUCATION'S SELF-PROCLAIMED DEFENDER'S EDUCATION MYTHS. Part of my problem with Ms. H. was that I didn't explain myself very well in the first place, but another part of the problem is that we have different beliefs.

There are certain things that, according to college classes and workshops, teachers are supposed to believe. But my experience tells me that some of these things aren't true. In Jay Greene's book, which seems to be another blast at public education, he says that there are certain things that the public believes about public education that aren't true. The public believes these things because of propaganda from special interests (teachers and teachers' unions). Thus, his book, EDUCATION MYTHS. But I've found that Greene, in making his argument, presents some of his own beliefs as facts, and these "facts" also don't square with my experience. So during the next few weeks, I plan on addressing some things that teachers and the public are supposed to believe about public education that I believe are wrong. So here to wet your appetite are PESPD's EDUCATION MYTHS:

1. When a student fails, the teacher has failed.

2. The American people demand high standards from their schools.

3. Education should be a right of every student.

4. All high school aged kids should be encouraged to stay in school.

5. The key factor in the learning that takes place in any classroom is the quality of the teacher.

6. The key factor in determining a student's performance is his or her academic ability.

7. God is not allowed in public schools.

8. Teachers lack incentive to do a good job unless they are held accountable.

9. Public schools will improve if we use vouchers to force them to compete with private schools.

10. Because of our poor public education system, we are falling behind other nations.

I reserve the right to revise this list as I go along. After all, it's my blog and my posts. But don't worry, I won't delete you. There's nothing worse than being deleted. Now, if only I could remember where I put that olive branch!


Blogger the anonymous teacher said...

diversity makes the world go round, and the same is true for the world of public education. i think we all have different methods and different styles, and there isn't one right way. there never is.
i had a couple students who failed my class. but in emailing other teachers about them, i found out that in several classes they were passing with flying colors.
i will never call a student a lost cause, because i've worked with those so-called lost causes. but as you've said, there's no way to reach all of them.
we can't all have everything...and that's why it's good to have teachers with different methods. maybe what i'm doing won't work, but what you do will.
i don't think it's possible for the dali lama of teachers to reach all of them...they are teenagers afterall.

and as for the end of your post...first off, i don't think that college classes or textbooks can really prepare anyone for teaching. i've been realizing it more and more as this year has gone on. and i love your list of myths...the 1st one and the 8th one are the two that really irritate me.
as for the 1st one, there are students who, for whatever reason, choose to fail...and that is a bad choice they make. sometimes there's nothing a teacher can you've pointed out, when you have 24 other students in the classroom, your whole focus can't be on one. it's not possible.
and number precisely do we hold teachers accountable? "the test"? i am accountable to my students first and foremost not a test that many times doesn't accurately measure what they've learned.
per usual, i have opinions on the rest of them. i might have to link over here and discuss...because i feel like my comment may be getting a little long.

and keep the advice coming!! i can use all the help i can get!!

5/29/2006 4:16 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Thank you for your comment, AT. I will love discussing things with you, but I can promise you this: I will never again assume that I have greater wisdom than another teacher just because I've been doing it longer. The wisdom you've demonstrated after teaching for only one year puts a lot of us to shame. And feel free to go as long as you want whenever you comment on any of my posts.

5/29/2006 4:57 PM  
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