Sunday, March 27, 2011

Merit pay for teachers is ideological horseshit.

Starting in, say, 5th grade, I reached the conclusion that I was responsible for my own education. My teachers helped or got in the way, but it was up to me. I had a curious mind; I studied what interested me. That could be dinosaurs and cartooning, when officially I was supposed to be learning grammar, fractions and state capitals. My grades were never impressive; grades didn’t motivate me, aside from getting the bareass minimum to keep my parents from yelling at me, grounding me and cutting my allowance. I learned things because I wanted to.

That said, if I got a “C” in science, I didn’t see it as Mr. Hoger’s fault. The “C” was a measure of my performance, not my teacher’s. Duh.

My observations regarding the learning styles of the kids around me?

Some kids were academic, took grades seriously, and learned out of a relentless sense of achievement. Or because their parents bullied them.

Some kids (like me) were nerdy and intellectual—and learned what they wanted to because it interested them.

Some kids were anti-intellectual and hated math and big words out of principle. The inevitable, slack-jawed sneering speech: “I don’t see why we should learn this stuff …”

Some kids were stupid.

None of this had any !@#$ thing to do with the skill set of the teacher.

There’s a myth floating around that student performance isn’t the student’s responsibility. Good teachers create good students. Bad teachers create bad students. If the little bastards are getting Fs and Ds, it’s the teacher’s fault. It the teacher were good, that wouldn’t happen. Mr. Chips, Mr. To Sir With Love or Little Miss Up the Down Staircase would float down from the sky like Glinda the Good and – through their sheer righteous wonderfulness – make the Slack Jawed Intellectual fall in love with the joy of learning.

There’s an even more idiotic myth that this mystical, meritorious teacher superpower can be measured and rewarded. And if good teachers are paid more – like !@#$ factory workers on an assembly line – all the teachers would get their acts together and start grinding out perfect students – objectively measured by good grades and test scores.

And, of course, if we eliminate “tenure,” teachers would be scared shitless about losing their jobs like almost everybody else in America. And that’d make ‘em do a better job! They’ll work harder and better and stop slacking off! They’ll learn our kids good!

Jesus !@#$ wept.

Teaching isn’t factory work. It’s not like the good line worker slaps the engine together with zero defects and the bad worker creates a lemon.

Learning is an active verb. I learn; you learn. I don’t learn you, OK? The teacher doesn’t pour learning into Johnny’s head. Johnny learns – if Johnny wants to.

Free will is involved.

Johnny has to WANT to learn or he won’t learn.

Unless teachers can beat kids, there’s absolutely nothing even the best teacher in the !@#$ world can do about it.

Learning is a choice.

You can’t make students learn.

You can’t measure “teacher performance” with a bloody FCAT test.

QED: Merit pay for teachers is ideological horseshit.

The problem isn’t bad teachers. The problem is bad students. That translates to lack of student motivation based on a perception of the irrelevance of education or a hatred of intellectuality itself. That isn’t simply a few bad apples raised by bad parents – it’s America’s anti-intellectual, know-nothing culture which EVERY public school teacher fights every day.

Students learn when they DECIDE to learn.

The solution for bad students isn’t creating an army of perfect teachers who turn slackers into winners.

The solution is giving students who hate learning a reason to change their minds.



Amanda said...

Thank you. I could not have said it any better. Your thoughts are what I have been telling other teachers, parents, principals... basically anyone who will listen... for the last 6 years... have my "bad" students excelled in college? college? They didn't go because they hated school..... they weren't college ready.. so they just went to work. I couldn't make them want to learn, so they didn't. I am reposting this with the hopes that many will in turn post it.. and maybe I will even sent it to the stupid governor of our state... Thanks!

Marty Fugate said...