Slandering a Christian teacher

You may have heard about the little boy who wanted to distribute to his class candy canes with messages about they symbolize Jesus and the Gospel.  His teacher wouldn’t let him.  So Glenn Beck, Fox News, and many Christian activists have been excoriating that teacher.

But Hillsdale professor Korey Maas says that the teacher first consulted her principal, who told her that the school did not allow that kind of “witnessing” in class.  And she is far from being a militant secularist or the worse things she is being called.

In fact, she is herself a pious and confessional Christian, though it would be impossible to discern as much from the coverage of much Christian media.

I know this because I was present at her baptism; I participated in the catechesis leading to her reception into the theologically (and, overwhelmingly, politically) conservative Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod; I preached at her wedding; my wife and I are godparents to her children, as she and her husband (who is himself on the faculty of a Christian university) are to our youngest. Needless to say, I have complete confidence that her far less dramatic version of events is much the more accurate account. [Read more...]

A call to legalize sex between teachers and pupils

More taboos keep falling down.  A column in the Washington Post, no less (the leading newspaper of our governing class), argues that we should legalize sex between teachers and underage students. [Read more...]

Chicago teachers’ strike

Chicago teachers are on strike, even though they are among the highest paid in the country and they were offered a 16% raise.  But they don’t want to be held accountable for their effectiveness:

For the first time in a quarter century, Chicago teachers walked out of the classroom Monday, taking a bitter contract dispute over evaluations and job security to the streets of the nation’s third-largest city — and to a national audience — less than a week after most schools opened for fall.

The walkout forced hundreds of thousands of parents to scramble for a place to send idle children and created an unwelcome political distraction for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In a year when labor unions have been losing ground nationwide, the implications were sure to extend far beyond Chicago, particularly for districts engaged in similar debates.

The two sides resumed negotiations Monday but failed to reach a settlement, meaning the strike will extend into at least a second day.

Chicago School Board President David Vitale said board and union negotiators did not even get around to bargaining on the two biggest issues, performance evaluations or recall rights for laid-off teachers. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said that was because the district did not change its proposals.

“This is a long-term battle that everyone’s going to watch,” said Eric Hanuskek, a senior fellow in education at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. “Other teachers unions in the United States are wondering if they should follow suit.”

The union had vowed to strike Monday if there was no agreement on a new contract, even though the district had offered a 16 percent raise over four years and the two sides had essentially agreed on a longer school day. With an average annual salary of $76,000, Chicago teachers are among the highest-paid in the nation, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.

But negotiators were still divided on job security measures and a system for evaluating teachers that hinged in part on students’ standardized test scores.

via The Associated Press: Chicago teachers strike in bitter contract dispute.

What is at stake, if other teachers’ unions follow suit, is educational reform.  The politics here are interesting:  Unions and teachers’ unions in particular are key activists in the Democratic party.  And yet, these teachers have risen up against educational reforms pushed by Democrats.  The mayor of Chicago, who has taken on these teachers, is Rahm Emanuel, formerly President Obama’s chief of staff and a key fundraiser in his re-election campaign.  Could improving education, even against the opposition of incompetent teachers and their enablers, become a bi-partisan cause?  Or will political pressure from the unions derail educational reform?

Teachers good and bad

The California teachers’ union is calling for a boycott of the L.A. Times for publishing an expose of teacher performance.  Here are some of its findings:

• Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year. There is a substantial gap at year’s end between students whose teachers were in the top 10% in effectiveness and the bottom 10%. The fortunate students ranked 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math.

• Some students landed in the classrooms of the poorest-performing instructors year after year — a potentially devastating setback that the district could have avoided. Over the period analyzed, more than 8,000 students got such a math or English teacher at least twice in a row.

• Contrary to popular belief, the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, nor were the weakest instructors bunched in poor areas. Rather, these teachers were scattered throughout the district. The quality of instruction typically varied far more within a school than between schools.

• Although many parents fixate on picking the right school for their child, it matters far more which teacher the child gets. Teachers had three times as much influence on students’ academic development as the school they attend. Yet parents have no access to objective information about individual instructors, and they often have little say in which teacher their child gets.

• Many of the factors commonly assumed to be important to teachers’ effectiveness were not. Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved their students’ performance.

Other studies of the district have found that students’ race, wealth, English proficiency or previous achievement level played little role in whether their teacher was effective.

via L.A. teacher ratings: L.A. Times analysis rates teachers’ effectiveness – latimes.com.

It seems that some people have a vocation for teaching.  Let’s focus on the positive.  What are traits of good teachers?  Tell about good teachers who were able to get through to you.

The vocation of a teacher

Congratulations to columnist Kathleen Parker–whom I actually met at a Patrick Henry College journalism event– for winning the Pulitzer Prize.  She credits a teacher for starting her on that road:

I materialized in James Gasque’s class in March of the school year for reasons that will have to wait for another day. Suffice to say, I knew no one and had come from a small high school in central Florida where, for some reason, no one had bothered to teach the diagramming of sentences.

Thus, my fellow students at Dreher High School in Columbia, S.C., were way ahead of me when Mr. Gasque finally called on me to identify some part of a sentence he had written on the blackboard. His back to the class with chalk in hand, he stood poised to write my instructions.

Every living soul knows the feeling of helplessness when a crowd of peers awaits the answer you do not know. Whatever I said was utterly ridiculous, I suppose, because my classmates erupted in peals of laughter.

I have not forgotten that moment, or the next, during all these years. As I was trying to figure out how to hurl myself under my desk, Mr. Gasque tossed me a sugarcoated, tangerine-colored lifesaver from the good ship lollipop.

He whirled. No perfectly executed pirouette can top the spin executed by Mr. Gasque that day. Suddenly facing the class, he flushed crimson and his voice trembled with rage.

“Don’t. You. Ever. Laugh. At her. Again.” he said. “She can out-write every one of you any day of the week.”

It is not possible to describe my gratitude. Time suspended and I dangled languorously from a fluff of cloud while my colleagues drowned in stunned silence. I dangle even now, like those silly participles I eventually got to know. Probably no one but me remembers Mr. Gasque’s act of paternal chivalry, but I basked in those words and in the thought that what he said might be true. I started that day to try to write as well as he said I could. I am still trying.

via Kathleen Parker – A sprig of verbena and the gifts of a great teacher.

Did any of you have a teacher who had a similar impact in your life?


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