Teacher Under a Microscope

Teacher Under a Microscope

by Ph.D. Robert Rose

Even though the incidents occurred in 1978, âTEACHER UNDER A MICROSCOPEâ examines ongoing issues in education through the eyes and ears of trained observers and evaluators. They observe, comment, and critique everything I say and do.

The intake and exit interviews explore my philosophy of education as well as my comments and responses to their

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Even though the incidents occurred in 1978, âTEACHER UNDER A MICROSCOPEâ examines ongoing issues in education through the eyes and ears of trained observers and evaluators. They observe, comment, and critique everything I say and do.

The intake and exit interviews explore my philosophy of education as well as my comments and responses to their questions about what I actually did and why I did it. The conflicts between a disturbed principal (who was backed by the District) and me demonstrate the lack of balance of power in the schools. One of my main contentions is about the necessity of teacher autonomy. You see how I fight for it, not for me, but to better serve and teach my students. There are some basic questions asked and answered through the Observerâs interviews and protocol and the daily and weekly journals or commentaries I was asked to make. A few times I give you some overlapping of the same incidents as seen by the Observer and then in my journal so you can see them in greater depth.

First. What should life in the schools be like for the children and their caretakers â teachers and support personnel? Second. What are the basic goals of public education and how should they be accomplished? Third. How much freedom or autonomy should a teacher have or needs to properly achieve these goals?

With the accountability movement gaining strength coupled with powerful back-to-basics and safe schools components, it appears the public believes schools should emphasize basic skills. To assure this happening testing is the rage to demonstrate that the students are achieving higher standards of skills and as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of each teacher.

Testing is reasonable and necessary as one way to determine what a student has learned and a teacher has taught. It is one way. It does not take the place of all the complex and useful things a teacher has learned about a student during the year. Often, because a student is learning English or is enduring serious emotional distress or has some type of learning handicap, the teacher is in the best position to know whether a test assesses accurately his skill levels, knowledge, or progress. When a single test is the only determiner of whether a child passes or fails, injustices occur. The same is true when the test results of the class are the only determiners of the teacherâs ability or success. The threat of being fired for the poor performance of a class will discourage even good teachers from taking classes or individual children who have academic or behavior problems. I have already read about and seen instances of teachers trying to insure they have more than their share of âgoodâ and capable students. This stacking of a class will most affect new teachers (and their students) who have always suffered trial by fire. It makes good sense for the experienced teachers not to jeopardize their career, but is it ethical or good educational practice?

The positive aspect of mass testing and accountability is that more students are being exposed to a much wider variety of useful academic skills In many poverty areas the students, because of alleged or believed weak academic abilities, were limited in what was taught to them. Asking teachers to carefully examine what they teach and expecting them to know why as well as what they are teaching is a positive step for the profession...

It didnât just happen. Through years of trial and plenty of errors, I gradually found my teaching style. Through eclectic reading I brought into my classroom ideas and concepts from many disciplines. I found I was not an original thinker, but I was very good at taking the ideas of more gifted people and applying them in classroom situations. I took many concepts and techniques used for adults in the Human Potential Movement and modified them for my elementary and the middle school students.

Yet, every step of the way, every novel idea or technique meant some kind of battle with the Establishment. I lost many skirmishes, but I won the most important battle; I had more autonomy than any teacher I knew or read about. One of the skirmishes is vividly depicted in the book as the District forbade me to use my innovative techniques just before the researchers were to begin observing me in action.

What do I believe? I believe children need to learn basic skills. However, technology, from simple handheld calculators to complex computers that will take a child from a dictated story to a revision to a completed essay without spelling or grammatical errors should force us to reconsider the methods and amount of time spent on âbasics.â Within a few years people will be able to carry translators that will mean anyone can communicate with anyone else in different languages. What will be important is the clarity and comprehensiveness of the message.

TV for class size lessons, computers for increasing individualization of skills and ease of accountability will make massive testing an absurdity. There are programs in existence now that can take a child through almost any skill. The teacher can truly be a classroom manager and interject his expertise and help as it is necessary on an individual basis. He will have an ongoing printout of where a child is and what he needs next. Whereas, mass testing at its best tells the teacher where the child was months ago. Not very helpful.

TV and VCR use enables teachers to use the expertise of countless others in every skill, subject, and content area. It is the most powerful and unused medium. I can teach a story concept, characterization, plot, setting, theme, and flow to an entire class more effectively in two hours than in two weeks of reading the same story. I am not against reading, it is a wonderful and necessary skill and I do teach it. However, many children I do not reach through reading, I motivate through TV. I have discovered countless children who were considered âslowâ and were poor readers who, while watching a movie, proved by their questions and answers to possess fine intelligence. For many reasons they had not learned to read well so were considered slow. Once my excitement with their minds convinced them they were not slow, but merely unskilled, they were motivated to learn to read better â and did.

I believe we need to rethink what is important for children. I think we have our priorities wrong. I told one superintendent. Let all the children in one school not focus on academics until the sixth grade. Let them learn socialization skills, teach them only the arts, and physical education. Donât prevent them from learning to read, write, or cipher, but emphasize play â the real purpose of childhood. Then, when they were at the age of sixth graders, let me take classroom aides, who I would assist, one for each twenty children, and I would get the children up to grade level or beyond in one year. My point was that there is so much unnecessary repetition because children are not ready to learn and there are so many bad things that happen to children that make classes unsafe...

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