You Think You Know What Teachers Do? You’re Wrong

teacherplanning

Reposted from the Washington Post:

Teaching as a profession has no mystery. It has no mystique. It has no respect. We were students, and therefore we know teachers. We denigrate teachers. We criticize teachers. We can do better than teachers. After all: We do. They teach. We are wrong. We need to honor teachers. We need to respect teachers. We need to listen to teachers. We need to stop reducing teachers to arbitrary measurements of student growth on so-called objective exams. Most of all, we need to stop thinking that we know anything about teaching merely by virtue of having once been students. We don’t know.

I spent a little over a year earning a master of arts in teaching degree. Then I spent two years teaching English Language Arts in a rural public high school. And I learned that my 13 years as a public school student, my 4 years as a college student at a highly selective college, and even a great deal of my year as a master’s degree student in the education school of a flagship public university hadn’t taught me how to manage a classroom, how to reach students, how to inspire a love of learning, how to teach. Eighteen years as a student (and a year of preschool before that), and I didn’t know anything about teaching. Only years of practicing my skills and honing my skills would have rendered me a true professional. An expert. Someone who knows about the business of inspiring children. Of reaching students. Of making a difference. Of teaching. I didn’t stay. I copped out. I left. I went home to suburban New Jersey, and a year later I enrolled in law school.

The people I encounter out in the world now respect me as a lawyer, as a professional, in part because the vast majority of them have absolutely no idea what I really do. All of you former students who are not teachers and not lawyers, you have no more idea of what it is to teach than you do of what it is to practice law. You did not. And you don’t know. You observed. Maybe you learned. But you didn’t teach. The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teachers.

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