Friday, November 26, 2010


Another excerpt from my current project on reforming education. I have finished the second chapter now and am about 7500 words into the book—a pretty good start.

So perhaps the teacher education programs are at fault? The state has gone to great pains in creating a number of standards, regulations, requirements and paperwork for a prospective teacher to accomplish but is it really helpful? Are there new teachers who are qualified or are they lacking.

It seems there is a bit of both. While I don't knock the state for its efforts to try and account for every teacher and their training, it does not seem to be making much of a difference. In fact, there have been some teachers run off because they had been teaching a subject for a number of years without the proper qualifications. Many of these people left the private sector and became teachers. Some were engineers who taught physics, or former missionaries who taught Spanish. Others were chemists or biologists who desired to teach in order to pass on the skills and expertise that they possessed. Some of them quit teaching because they were unwilling to jump through the hoops. They knew they were good teachers. Their students knew they were good teachers, but they did not have the proper credential, and rather than do what was required in order to continue their job, they left the classroom.

To be fair to the state, the new requirements were made clear and there was ample time given to complete them, but for some it didn't matter. Perhaps they only had a few more years of teaching left in them anyways before they took time to spend with grandkids and travel, but for whatever reason some left.

I don't think that this is really the problem however. Still part of me thinks that there is a lack of proper teacher training. Now any veteran teacher will tell you that things were simpler when they began and that keeping kids alive and busy was the main objective, but still there can be some improvement.

The state knows this too and is trying to compensate for the lack of training new teachers arrive with by offering a mentoring program at the schools themselves. Even knowing that and knowing that some credential programs are not as good as others, I still feel as though the schools of education are not the problem. Most seem to be doing what they, and the State of California, feel is best to prepare a new wave of teachers. After all it is not an easy thing to take a recent college graduate who has spent her entire life as a student and get her to the other side of the classroom in one year. Teaching is a challenging occupation that takes years to master and so they might be doing the best job they know how.

In the end I can excuse the schools of Education from blame, and certainly hope we can refrain from "blowing them up." The problem must lie elsewhere, so please allow me to continue exploring my own journey to nail down the problem.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Another excerpt from my current project on education:


    I was in my first year of full time teaching trying to teach a group of 15 and 16 year-olds modern world history. Whether I succeeded or not is a matter for debate, but at one moment I thought about giving up. In my 8th period, the last class of the day, I had an exchange student from Germany, who in spite of learning history in a language that was not his first managed to score higher than any of my other students. Hans, was somehow an object of desire among the female students in spite of the fact that he was highly arrogant and sarcastic. At one point one of these female students decided to ask about exchange programs even though such a question was significantly off topic, not that such a thing was unusual.

Maria's hand shot up and without waiting for me to call on her she began, "Hey Mr. B?"

Figuring that she wanted to know something about World War 2, the topic of the lesson I responded, "Yes Maria?"

She perhaps did not really even know what we were learning that day since she had spent most of the period chatting with her cousin and the exchange student. "If I want to be an exchange student, to say…England. Do I have to learn the language?"

I paused stunned by the question, but trying to spare the student's feelings I calmly answered, "Maria, they speak English."

    He faced did not betray proper understanding of my answer and sure enough she wanted some clarification, "So I don't have to learn it?"

    I decided to try and clarify further so I repeated, "They speak English in England."

    At that point a few students had cued into the fact that this young woman was making a fool of herself. Her friend, upon hearing the laughter decided that she was in on the joke so she tried to pile on to Maria's embarrassment by adding, "Duh, of course you have to learn the language."

    By now most of the other students were aware of how ludicrous this line of questioning was, but for me, I had not figured out how to get through to her without making fun of her so I repeat louder and slower as though it was a matter of volume and speed that caused this young woman to fail to understand me, "They speak English in England."

    Still the girl looked confused. At last I had a new idea, "Maria, they speak English. You speak English." She nodded was the confused look fixed on her face, but I had no more time to try and illuminate her.

    It was at that moment that I decided maybe the students I was getting had missed a few steps on their way to my class.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Reforming Education?

Here is an excerpt from one of my current projects, on education:


I had some interesting interactions in my program that caused me to pause and try to make sense of the field into which I was heading. I was unable at the time however to gain proper perspective. One of the situations was in my class about how to teach second language learners as we call them. California especially, but other states as well have a plethora of students from a number of countries, speaking a number of languages. This poses a challenge for the teacher obviously because in any given class there may be a large proportion of students who did not grow up speaking English, and who's parents also do not speak the common tongue of this nation. In my student teaching experience, I taught a group of students who were entirely made up of second language learners. It was interesting trying to teach about the history of 20th century America while my students had trouble understanding .

    Anyways, my professor was a woman who hailed from Argentina, but had since gained a college education in the United States through a doctorate program. She was the mother of two high school students at a local school. There were several things that bothered me about her and the class. The first was that she was never on time. It was normal for us students to be assembled in the class before she arrived and then took a few minutes to set up. She dismissed this as cultural, explaining that in Argentina no one is ever on time. Interesting. The next thing that piqued my attention was that she regularly denounced the American education system as unfair for immigrants and even extended it to the nation as a whole. I found this difficult to swallow as she herself was the product of the American college system had held lofty degrees and positions in education. Furthermore she drove a luxury SUV and her daughters attended what was commonly accepted as the bourgeois high school in the area. She was always adorned with jewelry and dressed in fashionable clothes. She seemed to embody the American dream and not the American nightmare she was selling. I was getting confused.