How to evaluate teachers?

March 23, 2011 by

Considering the recent weakening of the teacher’s unions (a Very Good Thing) in many states, the issue of how to evaluate teachers is bound to come up. We can count on the whole concept of seniority finally getting punted, and the possibility that teachers will be promoted based on their ability rather than how long they’ve managed to stick to a gig.

Which brings up the question: HOW do you evaluate a teacher. I’ve been told that they should be evaluated on how may of their students pass their classes (really. if not enough students pass, it must mean the teacher is a bad one, and if they all pass, the teacher must be great, right? especially because the teacher assigns the grades. This person must be a public school graduate.) I’ve also heard that it is unfair to evaluate a teacher based on students performance, because there is so much variety in students. Then, there’s the idea of rating teachers based on how the kids do on standardized tests (which will ensure that teachers teach to the test – another way of making sure that what gets taught is completely useless).  Lets take a look at these one by one, and see what we can find.

The idea of rating a teacher based on students passing their courses is simply insane. All this does is make sure that the good teachers (those that are willing to fail non-performing students) will end up at the bottom of the pay scale. The teacher that will pass anyone will end up as the best teacher (and that is more or less where we are now, so why bother).

How about basing it on the students performance (or mastery of the course material). this has one critical flaw (and a number of less critical flaws). the critical flaw is that in order to evaluate a teacher on how well the students have mastered the new curriculum, you have to assume that the students are coming INTO the class with the basic skills (prerequisites) for the course. If the teacher has to spend half the year on remedial work, there isn’t any way that (s)he will end up being evaluated as a good teacher. So instead of evaluating on actual course material, why don’t we just measure how much progress a student makes in a given year? The problem here is that if a student doesn’t keep up (due to a bad teacher, crappy student, or any of a slew of possibilities), the student still moves into the next grade, and by the time you’re in third grade, you’ll have kids that cover the spectrum of knowledge and abilities, and by the time you get to high school it will be even worse. How can you teach a high school class where only some of the students can read? Or only a few of the students can write a cohesive paragraph? (of course, that is what we’re doing now….) So the problem with this idea is that you can’t hold the teachers accountable with this model until you can be sure that they are starting out with students that have the prerequisite skills for their class – in other words, until the schools themselves are accountable, and have a mechanism for dealing with students that can’t or won’t perform.

OK, so how about the old standardized tests. If we can create tests that actually measure mastery of useful and relevant material, this might work. Of course, we all know that standardized tests are inherently flawed, and that there are people that are really good at taking standardized exams, and other people that are really bad at it. So at best, this would be a weak measure of students mastery of mostly irrelevant material. Not so good.

So what is the best way to evaluate teachers? How about we take a look at business, and see how they evaluate their people. In some instances, it is simply a measure of counting up points. A successful salesperson will have a lot of sales, a bad one selling the same product won’t have many. Easy. Also not a good model for teachers – we’ve already decided that there aren’t any solid, easy metrics to measure teachers by. So how about a part of industry that is much squishier – management. In general, management is evaluated based on a whole slew of poorly defined skills and tasks that sum up to indicate if a manger is successful or not. How are they evaluated? Their bosses evaluate them. Yep, purely subjective, based on the day to day interaction of the boss, the manager, and the employees.  Are there cases where a good manager gets screwed because the boss doesn’t like him? Of course. Just like there are incompetent managers that keep their jobs by blowing the boss (or the equivalent). Not completely fair, but overall it works. So could this model work for teachers? Let the administrator of the school/department evaluate the teachers, determine who gets raises, who doesn’t, and who gets punted. In other words, let the people who understand the situation, and the strengths and weaknesses of the teachers, students, and the school itself decide who is good. Of course, you have to do the same thing with the administration, which means this would probably never actually happen. School boards and administrative units tend to be magnets for small people that want to be In Charge, just like any bureaucracy. So maybe privatization of the schools would be a good path….. But that’s a different discussion.

Bottom line: Until the schools are actually able to hold non-performing students back, expel problem students, and make sure that students only move on to the next grade when they are qualified to do so, there isn’t any real way to evaluate teachers. The best model is to count on the administration, and hope for the best. Either that or scrap the current fiasco that we call public education, and start from scratch.

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Standaradized testing – how I deal with curriculum and testing

March 21, 2011 by

No matter what you think about standardized testing, it is an unavoidable part of modern education. The question is: how do you design a course without “teaching to the exam”?

First, we have to ask is teaching to the exam a bad thing? I guess that depend on the end goal of your class. If your goal is to make sure that your students  score as well as possible on the exam, then you SHOULD be teaching to the exam. If you have any other goals, you definitely should not (or at least not exclusively).

The simple answer is try and strike a balance – SOME class time will be dedicated to test prep, and the rest can be used for the teaching that accomplishes your other goals. But what do you do when there simply isn’t enough class time to do both? This is the reality that most teachers I know have to deal with: They have to either eliminate important curriculum or leave their students unprepared for their standardized test (be it the SAT, no child left behind, or whatever). Being a stubborn old Yankee, I tend to concentrate on preparing my students to deal with the real world, and ignore “the test”. My theory is that if the test is really relevant,  by preparing the students for the real world, they will be prepared for the test. Yes, this is idealistic. (but bear with me – I have an unusual situation that will Make it Better.)

As a teacher, am I failing my students by not prepping them for a standardized test? Well, it depends on the test. I teach High school, so it is critical that my students are prepared for the SATs. They need decent  scores in order to get into college, so as their teacher, I have an obligation to prepare them for the exam. The No Child Left Behind Exams (NCLBE) are completely irrelevant to the student, so I have no obligation (to the student) to prepare them for those exams. However, depending on the school I work in, the school may feel that I have an obligation to prep the students for the NCLBE. So now, I’m back to the conflict of deciding if I should teach material that the STUDENT needs (for life and SATs), or teaching material that the school needs (to boost NCLBE scores). What to do. For me, the decision is easy: I teach for my students. NCLB is irrelevant to the students, and is therefor secondary. Meaning if i have time I’ll get to it, and if not, I won’t. If the school doesn’t like that, they can fire me an hire someone that will pander to test scores.

However, I DO have that special situation: I have the luxury of working at a very small school, and I can offer pretty much whatever courses I want. that means that, in my case, I can require that students take a course dedicated to the NCLBE, and I can schedule the course so that the students take it right before the exam, and make sure that they don’t get graded on it (so it doesn’t effect their GPA). This means that I’m essentially taking the NCLBE material that I wouldn’t cover in my courses, and letting the students KNOW that it is bullshit (but also explain why it is needed). I can also take the time to teach them to take standardized exams – an art form in itself.

Does this subvert the whole concept of NCLB? Absolutely. Do I have a problem with that? Absolutely not. I’ll take the extra time to teach the PC crap that the kids need to make it look like I’m playing the game, but at the same time, I’ll be teaching them what they should be learning – regardless of NCLB. Plus, by taking the time to teach them how to take standardized exams, I’m providing them with a skill that will serve them well in their future academic career.

Subvert the system? Who, me?

doping it up at school

February 12, 2010 by

I’ve recently begun a new gig at a local charter school. A small school – like less than 100 kids. Keep in mind that the last time I had anything to do with a high school on a regular basis was when I did my time. Long ago, and far away.

I’ll blog about my impressions in another post, but first, I’ve gotta vent about The Dope Deal. Yep, day 8 of new gig, and local Officer Friendly is in school busting the kids.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I think our drug laws are stupid. That’s a whole different post . They may be stupid, but we have to live with them, and by working in a High School, we need to be prepared to play Big Brother when the law requires it. Sucks, but goes with the gig.

Fortunately, in this case,  the deal had already gone down (as it were) before I got to work  (I teach a class after lunch, so I’m not there in the morning). Of course, when I walked into work, things were a bit tense. The day was more or less normal – I teach a class that is in a fairly isolated part of the school, so we were pretty insulated from the hoo-haw. Of course, the mandatory debriefing staff meeting after school was a different story.

Overall, things went pretty much as I expected. Most of the staff seem to feel the same way I do – drugs are a part of our society (like it or not), but because of where we are, we need to play Big Brother, and do what the law says we’re supposed to.

The kids involved were all honest and forthright – they admitted what was going on, where the dope came from,  etc. It boiled down to four basic situations:

  1. Darwin candidate #1 brought Large Amounts of dope in, and was distributing.
  2. Darwin Candidate #2 was a recipient of 1/2 ounce from #1.
  3. Darwin candidate #3 was holding for another individual, who is not a student here.
  4. Darwin candidate #4 shares a locker with candidate #1, knew what was going on, but didn’t say anything.

#1 was in the interesting position of not actually having any dope, but his backpack (which he had been carrying it in) reeked. A lot. As in contact high. In any case, he came clean, and identified his source. Here’s the interesting part: He claims he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong. Really. This kid brought something like an OUNCE of dope to school (this time), and thought he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Scuze the fuck out of me?! But wait: there’s more. A member of the staff actually bought this!. Really! this bimbo was actually arguing that because the kid didn’t “know he was doing something wrong”, he should be cut some slack. Fail. Outta the pool. He’s gone.

#2 and #3 were a lot more realistic. He knows what the deal is (catch the pun? huh did ya?), knows he’s in for  a world of grief, and is ready to suck it up.

#4 was pretty much caught in the crossfire. In all honesty, I can’t fault him for failing to narc out his locker – mate. On the other hand, he can’t get let off scot free. Most of the staff agreed.  The tough part is that not only did he know, but technically, he was also facing a potential possession charge – it was, after all, HIS locker too. (fortunately, #1 was honest, and didn’t try to pass the rap onto #4).

There’s also the issue of all the kids that knew something was up, talked to each other about it, but never let anyone official know about it. The school is a zero drug tolerance school – and for the most part, the students WANT that. Many of them are here because they are escaping from schools where drugs and violence are a real problems, and they want to be able to go to school without having to worry about it.

So here’s a dilemma for you: you’re a 14-18 year old kid, who has fled a drug and violence infested school, where people who “talk” are beat up and assaulted. You’re a the new, small school, with a zero tolerance policy, and you find out that one of your classmates has a stash at school. What do you do? In this case, all of the kids that were in the know kept quiet, and in all honesty, I can’t blame them.

The funny part is that even with all this angst, I’m finding that I really love working at this school.

Who needs parents when kids have “service coaches”?

October 23, 2009 by

For the third or fourth day in a row, I’ve heard references to school “service coaches”. Apparently, these people are supposed to help the kid’s figure out how to best volunteer to “help out the community”. ‘Scuse me?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for community service and volunteering. What I find a bit odd is that some bozo has decided that our schools are not only the place to teach the kids that volunteering is good, but also to teach them where to volunteer, and what to volunteer for. Remember, these are the same schools that rank as among the worst in the industrialized world. They can’t teach kids to read, write, or perform basic math, but they’re going to spend resources and time teaching them how and where to volunteer? Then there is the whole issue of government sponsored indoctrination brainwashing education. If it weren’t for the fact that the schools are so hopelessly incompetent, I’d be worried about what the agenda of these “service coaches” was. Call me paranoid, but this type of government sponsored subordination smacks of brown shirts and Orwellian “right-thinking”. Parents, it’s time to get off your butts and start being parents. This is YOUR job, not the schools. Get your righteous indignation up, write the school boards a letter and raise some hell. Take some responsibility for raising your kids, and insist that the schools concentrate on teaching the academic skills they’ll need to survive in the modern world. Or not. There will always be a need for mindless sheep. They make good cannon fodder, and are easy to manage and manipulate. They’re your kids. You decide their future.

This is math education?

October 19, 2009 by

I clipped this directly from my 5th grade daughter’s math homework grading rubric. The assignment: create a factor tree.

Grading Rubric:

Choose an interesting number (10 pts), Factor Number correctly (15 pts), Prime numbers are highlighted correctly (15), Number contains at least 5 factors (15 pts), factor string is displayed correctly (10 pts), Exponential notation is displayed correctly (15 pts), Display is neat (5 pts), display is creative (5 pts), Project is handed in on time (5 pts), Project shows effort (5 pts).

So, in  an assignment that is supposed to reinforce factoring, there is a total of 30 points that actually have anything to do with math – 15 points each for factoring correctly and being able to put it into exponential notation. Even if the factor tree was completely wrong, an artistic and well presented project would generate a 70. However, a project that simply did the factoring correctly, but was not artistic enough would get a 30. And we wonder why our students are incapable of performing basic math functions?

Here’s a clue: instead of having the kids spend and hour or two putting together a fancy presentation of a SINGLE math problem, have them spend 15 minutes actually doing 10 or 15 math problems. Do them in pencil and hand it in on plain old notebook paper. Then actually grade it based on the number of problems that  the student solved correctly.

I’m sorry folks, but this assignment is more appropriate to an art class than a math class. If this is math, then what we are teaching is that ‘pretty’ is more important than ‘correct’. Imagine if we took this approach in our health classes: “now girls, you’ll need to get boob jobs as soon as possible, and don’t forget liposuction and facial reconstruction. You have to look like Barbie. Guys, you’ll have to spend at least 2 hours a day at the gym, and you’ll have to take at least 5 credits of fashion classes (unless you’re gay – then you’re excused form the fashion class). Remember: it doesn’t matter what you eat, or how much you exercise, as long as you look pretty.”

Ever wonder why Universities are having to add a year to their normal curriculum? It is because so many of the incoming students think that if they turn in their homework or exams written in lots of pretty colored inks, with nice drawings and a pretty layout, the content doesn’t matter. Of course, they can’t actually DO the assignments, but they can produce something pretty that sort of resembles the assignment and is very artistic. It takes at least an extra year of university to take these dolts and teach them that what really counts is being able to do the assignment, and get a correct answer. All that matters in presentation is that it is legible and flows in a logical sequence.

Oh yeah, and giving points for handing the assignment in on time? Get a friggin’ clue. How about PENALIZING students that turn it in late? Then the kids might actually have a clue as to how the real world works.

Dusting off the Desk…

October 16, 2009 by

With much flailing of dust cloths and billowing clouds of dust, the time has come to bring the Iron Desk back to life.

Through a long and convoluted series of coincidences, it looks like I will be teaching at the local charter school beginning in January. It is an ‘Arts and Technology’ charter school that has drifted far, far from the ‘technology’ part of their charter, and I’ve been offered the opportunity to bring some robotics and mechanical engineering curriculum in to help correct the situation.

I must admit that there is a certain amount of dread involved here. Many of the students have been through much of their high school career with very little exposure to science or technology, and bringing a robotics class to these students will require a major leap for them. I’ve used this curriculum before in middle school, so I’m confident that the kids will be able to handle it – my concern is how receptive they’ll be. The focus of the school has definitely been on the arts, and there simply isn’t any way to teach programming and basic mechanical engineering without using some math, design, and critical thinking skills – exactly the type of things that many students enter the arts to avoid.

Having said all of that, I also find myself a bit giddy at the prospect of returning to the classroom. I love teaching, and I love working with middle and high school kids. (the preschool and elementary school kids have a whole different appeal – I love working with them too, but the rewards are very different.) Playing with tech, building things, and watching the ‘lightbulbs’ go off are some my favorite things to do. And of course, I’m a bit of a hard-ass when it comes to classroom and teaching. With a mix like that, it should be a very interesting semester.

So stay tuned. I’m guessing that this will be one hell of a ride….

Cooperative problem solving

October 5, 2007 by

Well, we’re a month – more or less – into the new year. This year, the big project is working with a group of middle school (grade 5-8) students, and trying to get them to actively problem solve in real time. Here’s the scenario: A group of 20-25 kids working in pairs. Each team has a few lego sets. Every day there is a “lesson” and a “challenge”. The students have the option of doing either the lesson, the challenge, or just playing around with the legos. There is no requirement to do any particular activity, no records are kept, there are no grades, etc.

On the first couple of days, the kids pretty much ignored both the challenges and the lessons. They played with the legos, and made some pretty impressive structures – cars, houses, hotels and such. Then, one of the challenges really clicked. It was a pretty simple one – given an inclined plane (a tabletop six feet long, with one end lifted about a foot, and a “ramp” at the end to provide a smooth transition to the floor), build something that will roll or slide down the plane and either stop as quickly as possible, or go as far as possible.

One group took on the challenge – the undirected play was getting a bit boring – and as soon as the others saw the “car” zoom across the floor, they were all on it. It didn’t take long for them to all optimize their distance vehicles because they shared ideas, copied, and pretty quickly optimized their options. Once they had more or less maxed out the distance challenge, about half of the kids moved back into free building (but with a lot more emphasis on movement now), about a quarter of them kept running their distance cars down the ramp and tweaking them, and the rest started working on the “fast stop” challenge.

Once again, as soon as one group had their marks down, the other groups quickly joined in. Because there are a lot more ways to slow down the “car”, there was a lot more variation in the vehicles – from having wheels rub the body, to using dragging parts, and even a couple of high friction gear trains and a sail.

It has been truly gratifying to watch these kids pull together and figure out ways to have “cooperative competition”. Instead of focusing on making sure that “I do best” the overall feeling is more of sharing ideas to “defeat” the challenge. Once all of the kids were working on the fast stop challenge, there were 5 or 6 different mechanisms that were being used to slow the cars down. As they compared methodologies, successes, and shared ideas as to how to improve each others designs, the groups would tend to coalesce around two or three models. Each group would still make their own version of the model, but they would share ideas with the other groups and work together to try and get the best result.

The best result: cars that would creep down the ramp and stop within 1″ of the bottom. The most creative? probably the car that was designed with an accidentally turned front wheels. Its path would curve until it was going sideways, then it would flip over a couple times and start again.

The most interesting observation: the teams that were most willing to use odd mechanisms were all girls. The boys tended to build fairly “standard” 4 wheel cars, and then try to figure out how to slow them down. The girls would come up with a way to make something go slow, then build around that. The boys were responsible for the models that worked best in the distance challenge, bit the girls came up with the ideas that worked best in the fast stop challenge.

This week, we’re starting to work with motors, so we’ll see where that goes…. 

Another School Year Begins: How To Deal With the First Day

September 5, 2007 by

goodschoolkids.jpgHow I deal with the first day depends on where I’m teaching. In the Public schools, the first day is an opportunity to make sure the kids know their limits and the rules. My classroom is a dictatorship, and I don’t pretend otherwise. I like to think of myself as a benevolent dictator, but the simple reality is that I make the rules, and the kids follow them or deal with the repercussions. I make it clear to my students that my classrooms will be civil, polite, and well mannered. I pretty much use the first day to make sure that the students know exactly what is expected of them. Usually on the first day they also figure out that there are repercussions to their behavior – there is always at least one student that has to test the rules right away. Of course, the details of the first day are very different for different ages. Little kids operate at a completely different level than early teens, and late teens have a whole new set of issues. Depending on the class I’m in, I adjust the delivery and details, but the basic rules are pretty much the same.

Teaching at University (and sometimes High School) is a whole different game. The basic behaviors can (usually) be assumed, and there is a lot less time. I tend to focus a lot more on the issues of the particular course I am teaching. I don’t make a “this is the hardest course you’ll ever take” speech. Students have heard that one so many times that it is simply noise, and starts off the class by reducing your credibility. Instead, I tend to focus on the requirements and expectations for the course. I have taught university classes that require absolutely no out-of-class work, and other classes that require as much as 30 hours per week of additional work. I make sure the students know what to expect. I go over my grading policies, what the major assignments will be, my cheating and plagiarism policy (If I catch a student cheating, they have flunked the course).

So that is pretty much it. Regardless of the age or venue, I use the first session to make sure that the students know what is expected of them, and what they can expect from me. We take an age-appropriate foray through acceptable (and unacceptable) behaviors, and set the tone for the remainder of the year. I don’t buy the “be a hard-ass for the first N days” theory. For me, consistency works much better, so I treat the students the same way on the first day as I will for the rest of the year. Get to know the students, and make sure that they get to know you – and your expectations – and the first day is a success.

Teaching Science

August 29, 2007 by

One of the constant problems that I have with public schools (High school and Junior High school) is the way that they teach science.

 “Science” is a term that includes a lot of subgroups. Chemistry, physics and biology are the standard minimum HS fare, although some schools offer other science classes. The problem is that the classes are taught completely independently of each other. This means that each teacher must assume that the kids in their class doesn’t know the basics of the other sciences (even if they have taken and passed another science class, it doesn’t mean that they actually remember any of it). So each course begins by covering the basics of atomic and molecular structure. Of course, if a kid has taken another science course, and actually learned anything, this is simply redundant, and a waste of time. After sitting in a classroom for a month listening to material that the kid already knows, is it any surprise that by the time the new stuff comes around the kid is completely tuned out?

Besides the redundant teaching, a nasty reality about science is that the “categories” – the biology, chemistry, and physics – are meaningless artificial groupings. So, how did these artificial grouping come about? Well, in the not-so-distant past, they were separate subjects. There was little to nothing to be shared between Biology, Physics, and Chemistry. Biology dealt with animals and plants on an organismal level, with some forays into cellular structure. Physics dealt with motion, statics, force, and energy, and chemistry dealt with the existence of molecules, what they were, how they went together, and eventually, atomic structure. These groupings made sense in the early days of science, but in the modern world, the categories are really sections of a continuum.

It is impossible to study ‘biology’ with a basic understanding of both ‘chemistry’ and ‘physics’. Modern biology requires the ability to understand molecular interactions – in some cases at the subatomic level, and also requires a good understanding of physics. A simple example is running a gel to separate proteins – a common HS biology lab. Without understanding how the electrical charge of a protein can be determined, the lab is meaningless. To understand how a protein can have an electrical charge, the student needs to understand the molecular structure of the protein (‘chemistry’), and the way the electrical charge effects the protein’s movement through the gel (‘physics’). Likewise, when a student is studying chemistry, the structures of proteins, sugars, and other organic compounds are simply trivia without a framework to hang them on – so we’re back to biology, with physics thrown in so that we can understand why some structures are more stable than others.

So, rather than having the “sciences” broken down into subgroups, why don’t we simply re-write the curriculum to reflect the reality of modern science? There are a couple of reasons. The first is because this is the way we have always taught sciences. A simple fact is that changes in education take a very long time. The more significant the change, the longer it will take. Don’t forget – we’re talking about a system that still regularly seriously considers teaching creationism as an idea that is as valid as evolution. Second, it isn’t just the public schools that have this problem. Colleges and universities face the same issue, and have been just as slow to modernize their classes and departments. Why should public schools change the way they organize their classes when the students will be getting the “old way” as soon as they hit university?

The unfortunate reality is that it is very unlikely that any significant change will take place in the foreseeable future. Those students that manage to keep an interest in the sciences alive through the public schools will go on to University and find a way to work on the stuff that interests them regardless of how the material is structured. I have worked with undergrads interested in everything from plasma physics to fluid dynamics, to evolutionary biology. In the course of pursuing their particular interests, they come to University with a good broad base of scientific knowledge. Knowledge that they do not get at school, but knowledge that they have picked up on their own.

What happens to the kids without the motivation or resources to get this level of scientific literacy before they come to university? I can’t say. I do know that they do not find their way into the research labs, and that I have yet to meet one in an introductory course I teach at university. I have to assume that they simply lose interest or give up on their scientific interests, and join the great majority of americans that view anything scientific as simply magic. So there ya go: Science education in America is either self education or no education.

Why is teacher turnover so high?

August 28, 2007 by

teacher.jpgIn my daily perusal of a bunch of online stuff, I came across a few interesting stories (for some reason, these stories always seem to pop up right before school starts). Anyway, they were lamenting the fact that many school districts have major retention problems. They quote numbers that suggest that 1/4 of new teachers stop teaching within 3 years, and 1/2 within 5 years. One school (I think it was in Chicago) claimed to have 100% teacher turnover from year to year.

 Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, most of the places that seem to have real retention problems are places that no sane person would want to be to start with. High crime, inner city schools. Places where education is so far down the list of “things to do” that the staff would be better equipped with experience managing a hostile prison population than a BS or MS in education. If you remove these schools from the studies, teachers still have a high turnover rate, but not as bad. Even “normal” schools have high turnover rates compared to other fields that require BS or MS degrees for employment. Once again, why? I believe there are a bunch of reasons:

  1. Teachers get paid crap. Nothing more to be said there.money.gif
  2. The demographic of people entering a teaching career happens to be a very good match to the “starting a family” demographic. By combining items 1 and 2, anyone with kids will realize that the crappy teacher salary doesn’t begin to cover the cost of day care, so why work when it results in a net income loss?
  3. #2 leads right in to this one: career change. To a college kid, the idea of summers off, spring break, and short work days is a pretty strong incentive. Of course, once they hit the real world, and realize that their kids day-care worker gets paid a lot more than they do, that other job starts to look pretty good. Not to mention those office salaries….
  4. Respect: something that is non-existent in the teaching profession. On the scale of Job Status, public school teacher is barely a step above flipping burgers. If you’re lucky. And the kid flipping burgers probably makes more than a starting teacher…
  5. The realization that a job in a public school is 50% paperwork, 40% babysitting, and (in a good school) only 10% teaching. For this you need a college degree?
  6. The fact that no matter how poorly a child behaves, performs, or treats others, there is absolutely nothing the teacher can do about it without risking getting fired. One bratty kid can easily eliminate that 10% teaching time, and there is nothing the teacher can do about it, and worse, the kid knows it. If you’re lucky and you’re teaching in elementary school, you may be able to get the kid tagged as “special needs”, then at least the little runt will be out of your class for a couple hours  for special ed.

face.jpgSo, given all of that, is it any surprise that half of the teachers that start out punt in 5 years? Especially considering the fact that moving out of the public schools – moving into private schools, tutoring, or other educational venues – counts as “leaving teaching”. The simple fact is that the teachers that remain in teaching are either completely dedicated, or so incompetent that they have no hope of finding any other job. And the truly dedicated ones burn out, leaving behind empty husks that simply don’t have the energy to change.