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Teachers Matter

Teachers Are Intellectuals, Not Missionaries

By Amanda Ripley, Washingtonian, February 2016

Teaching is seen as a moral, not intellectual, calling. It’s time to evolve from loving teachers to admiring them.

When Lisette Partelow embarked on a new career in 2012, she had all the props of an elite Washington professional: an Ivy League degree, management responsibility, challenging work, and a paycheck that placed her—in her first year on the job—in the top 25% of US salaries. Yet when she told people about her work, the response was very different than the one that awaited her attorney husband. “The reaction was ‘Oh, that’s cute,’” she remembers. “‘You must be sweet. But kind of dull.’”

Partelow, as it happens, was a teacher. And our standard narrative about teachers has long held that they’re underpaid and underappreciated—selfless, perhaps, but not exactly aspiring masters of the universe….

Many people still talk about teachers as if they volunteer in a soup kitchen—as if the hardest part is just showing up….

Hope Harrod, DC’s 2012 Teacher of the Year, [says] “When I tell people I’m a teacher, they say, ‘Oh, my gosh—that’s God’s work. Thank you.’”… The implications wear on her. “What they’re basically saying is ‘Thank you for doing that job so that I don’t have to.’”…

Harrod says, “They’re missing that I’m not actually sacrificing to do this. I’m working extremely hard because I believe in this intellectual journey—for my students and also for me. It’s deeply engaging.”

By “intellectual journey,” Harrod means the workplace questions that teachers grapple with daily: Why is Juan insisting that the answer is 15.5 and not 18? What’s happening in his head that isn’t happening in Scarlette’s head? How can she give him the tools to take apart his own process and rebuild it, piece by piece? For teachers, these challenges are as fulfilling as designing a two-story foyer might be for an architect or arranging a complex merger might be for a corporate lawyer….

People [who] don’t understand the intellectual journey…routinely ask what Harrod plans to do next: “Are you going to be a principal? What is the plan?” She…wishes they understood that her work already challenges her in every way, even after 14 years. Do people ask a pediatrician why she isn’t gunning to become hospital chief? “The underlying implication is ‘You’re not working to your potential.’ And I am.”…

As more people see teaching as prestigious, other magical changes follow: Parents begin to trust teachers a little more. Taxpayers start to believe their money is well spent. Politicians step aside so teachers can shape what’s taught and how. Most important, kids notice, too. When they hear stories about how hard it is to become a teacher and see the respect with which teachers are treated, students start to [see] that when adults say education is important, they might actually mean it….

It’s time to evolve from loving teachers to admiring them. There is a difference.

The first year my son attended a DC public school, I received an e-mail from other parents asking for contributions toward a holiday gift for the teacher…. Weeks later, I got another message asking for donations for a stroller, because the teacher was expecting a baby. Several months later, I received a third e-mail—this time requesting end-of-year gift donations for the same teacher.

Criticizing [such generosity] felt churlish. So I paid up. But…a wad of cash isn’t the highest praise for a professional. It’s not the way we show reverence for doctors and engineers. It feels more like a tip—a way to thank teachers for putting up with their sad-sack jobs….

If more parents understood what serious teaching looked like, what would they do instead? Maybe, at parties, they’d talk to teachers about their craft. They might ask to sit in on classes instead of just coming to concerts and games. And if they understood what their children would miss, they might not want them to be late for school.

Changing the reputation of a profession takes time. “In the United States, we’ve conceived of teaching as primarily a moral calling, not an intellectual one, for two centuries,” says Dana Goldstein, author of The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession…. There’s no way for a modern society to educate all kids to high levels without also cultivating a reverence for teaching….

At [the next awards program for outstanding teachers], let it be the one where no one apologizes to teachers for the pathetic salaries they no longer earn. Let it be the year that the mayor and TV personalities feel just a touch nervous onstage, staring out at the audience, suddenly aware that they’re not the smartest people in the room.

Amanda Ripley, a senior fellow at the Emerson Collective, is author of The Smartest Kids in the World—and How They Got That Way.

 http://www.washingtonian.com/2016/01/29/stop-talking-to-teachers-as-if-theyre-missionaries/

See also in ClassWise: “5 Ways Education Will Change by 2020”

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Teachers Will Not Be Replaced by Technology…

By John Chubb, Independent School, Winter 2015

but technology will change the traditional roles of the teacher.

For all of the growth in online course-taking and full-time online schooling, the most action in education technology is in blended learning. Experience with online education is beginning to indicate that the most successful learning experiences generally involve a mix of technology-supported and teacher-supported instruction….

In every blended-learning model, teachers play crucial roles. If students choose online lessons from playlists, teachers work as coaches. If students rotate from online instruction to collaborative projects to small-group instruction, teachers accelerate and remediate students in small groups while challenging students through applied projects that the students often design themselves. If instruction flexes between technology-driven and teacher-led, the teacher not only teaches but also orchestrates the transitions.

To be clear, technology does and will change the traditional roles of the teacher. Teachers will be responsible much less for coverage of core knowledge and skills. Teachers will carry less of the burden of routine student assessment. Students will have more control over their learning, using technology to personalize a path of greatest success. Teachers will be called on to spend more time working with students individually and less time working with whole groups. They will need to differentiate their instruction rather than teach to the middle. They will need to challenge students to think at higher levels and to apply their knowledge to practical problems and in collaboration with other students–all things technology cannot do very well.

In other words, technology will ask that all teachers do what great teachers do already. Technology will not replace teachers, but it will demand that schools employ teachers of ever-greater professional quality. With thoughtful use of technology, our current all-star teachers will be even more effective in supporting, guiding, inspiring, and reaching all of their students.

Will technology enable schools to [use] fewer teachers than they do today? Perhaps, but not rapidly or dramatically so. Remember that online courses require teachers—high­caliber ones. Brick-and-mortar teachers may be somewhat fewer in number in the coming years, but their status and even their pay will be higher. That is the nature of disruptive technology­—replacing routine work with technology and introducing new work by highly skilled professionals.

John Chubb is president of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).

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Teachers Still Matter Most in Digital Age

By Susan Patrick, Amplify Learning website

 Embracing digital learning means appreciating teachers’ permanent, critical role in the classroom.

Technology in the classroom can be a powerful catalyst. But…one thing remains the same: the importance of the teacher in motivating students, customizing instruction,…and managing classrooms that blend digital with live instruction.

Teachers–not tech–will always remain the “gold standard” of quality in education. Technology, in the hands of these great teachers, can empower higher degrees of engagement and equip students with the 21st-century skills they need for success after graduation. Embracing digital learning means appreciating teachers’ permanent and critical role in the classroom, while empowering them to harness the tools that expand their curriculum, and enhance communication with parents, administrators, and individual students.

Great learning for students isn’t a matter of “waiting for superman,” or waiting for technology to become a “silver bullet” for student success. The learning comes from quality teachers who consider high-tech tools— including online books, lessons, and other resources—part of a larger ecosystem of learning in a classroom. Targeted learning—whether one-on-one or in small groups—becomes easier to implement; advanced students stay challenged, and those at risk of falling behind get the remedial help they need….

Technology gives teachers more opportunities to allow their students to go deeper into learning subjects, building their skills in researching, writing, and communicating. And those opportunities extend outside the classroom more easily….

A teacher using digital curriculum and online discussions in a high school history class remarked, “I know my students so much better as I ask them to write essays and respond to other students’ essays with targeted feedback. We use the comments in the online learning space to dig into deeper discussions with our time together in classrooms.”…

We must remember that this world is both high tech and high touch. Students want both high tech for individualization and flexibility and high touch from great teachers. Computers will never replace people,…especially in the education of our youth. The promise of technology to help our teachers catalyze learning is a promise worth investing in, so our teachers can motivate and guide students with the best tools and have even more impact for student success.

Susan Patrick is CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). Amplify Learning provides K-12 digital curriculum plus assessment/mobile learning tools to help schools integrate technology in the classroom.

https://www.amplify.com/viewpoints/why-teachers-still-matter-most-digital-age

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Can Students Have Too Much Tech?

By Susan Pinker, The New York Times, 1/30/15 Technology works best when deployed by a terrific, trained teacher. [In President Obama’s recent State of the Union address] there was one thing he got wrong. As part of his promise to educate American children for an increasingly competitive world, he vowed to…“extend [the Internet’s] reach to every […]
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The Priceless Value of Learning

“College’s Priceless Value,” by Frank Bruni, The New York Times, 2/11/15  A nimble, adaptable intellect may be the best tool for a changeable economy. What’s the most transformative educational experience you’ve had?… I saw a woman named Anne Hall swooning and swaying as she stood at the front of a classroom in Chapel Hill, N.C., […]
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Best Classroom Gizmo? A Great Teacher

By Jeff Lantos, Los Angeles Times, 10/25/13  Unlike a computer, I can inspire, critique, counsel, and model good behavior. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s plan to supply every student with an iPad is, to be charitable, not going well. Before any more school districts decide to spend millions on high-tech gadgets, let me offer […]
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Autonomy Matters

“The Puzzle of Motivation,” by Daniel Pink, TEDTalk [Michael’s note: Where you see “education” in blue, Daniel Pink originally said, “business.” But in other writings, including his best-seller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink says schools would benefit from embracing the “autonomy, mastery, and purpose” approach described here.] Scientists who’ve been studying motivation have […]
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