Beautiful, on Teachers

A must read, by Steve Silberman, especially if you had a good teacher:

Five mornings a week, Keith gets up before dawn, puts on one of his geekiest bow ties (think Space Invaders, DNA helices, and daVinci’s Vitruvian Man), and drives half an hour down the freeway to teach teenagers about the wonders of science and the rigors of the scientific method at a local high school.

It’s a demanding life with little downtime. Keith’s evenings and weekends are often consumed by lesson planning and other school-related activities, but he’s perpetually stressed out about whether he’s doing enough for his kids. With his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Berkeley — one of the top five such programs in the country — he could triple his schoolteacher’s salary by taking a job as a bench scientist at DuPont or Exxon-Mobil, as many of his fellow Berkeley grads have done.

But Keith has a passion for teaching. He lives for those moments when he can help a student make sense of the world through science. (He’s also my husband.)

People who make the career choices that Keith did don’t get a lot of respect these days. In endless discussions of “the crisis in education,” teachers are routinely described as burned out, bumbling, underqualified, and unfit — particularly if they belong to a union. In his new book Class Warfare, aspiring education reformer Steven Brill calls school districts “the most lavishly funded and entrenched bureaucracies in America… supported by an interest group — the teachers’ unions — which [have] money and playbooks every bit as effective in thwarting the public interest as Big Oil, the NRA, or Big Tobacco.”

It’s as if we’ve collectively decided that anyone who devotes his life to standing at the head of a classroom, when salaries are so low and school budgets are being slashed, can’t be that smart after all — an insidious legacy of the era when teaching was one of the few acceptable occupations for women. …

Read the rest through the link above.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Megan

    wonderful article. Thank you so much for posting the link. I am already thinking about the teachers I need to email…

  • Fish

    I think much of the issue is that the common good is no longer as important a part of our culture as individualism. Public education is basically socialism, taking MY money to educate YOUR children, so it must be bad along with the teachers and everything else involved.

    I say this as someone whose child goes to private school because the public schools are so bad here. I attribute those failings to our culture (including parents) and our funding system, however, not the teachers.

    A free market solution to education would involve them looking for a new line of work:

  • ChrisB

    “In endless discussions of “the crisis in education,” teachers are routinely described as burned out, bumbling, underqualified, and unfit…”

    Straw man. It’s not that all teacher are. The problem is the teachers who are.

    “It’s as if we’ve collectively decided that anyone who devotes his life to standing at the head of a classroom … can’t be that smart after all.”

    Or it’s as if we saw the people who were failing at other majors turn to education in college. It’s not the case of everyone in the major, but it was all too common.

    This exemplifies our current political state: Ad hominem attacks in place of arguments. Neither disagreeing with how schools are run nor thinking more money is not the soluation to the problems equals hating education or educators.

  • Dan

    I like the last paragraph. As an adjunct paid a small fraction of the regular full-time faculty, I feel under-appreciated. I have no pension, health insurance, paid sick days, etc.

    Oh wait. The OP is about PUBLIC school teachers. Well never mind.

  • Susan N.

    This is my favorite quote from the article: “Letting go of a goal doesn’t mean you’ve failed, as long as you have a new goal in its place. That’s not giving up, it’s changing directions, which can be one of the best things you ever do in life.” (John Calderazzo to Rebecca Skloot)

    Reading these essays caused me to remember a few really wonderful teachers. It was their ability to connect, and their caring heart, that made the deepest impression — over and above their academic finesse or teaching ability.

    I also loved Nicolla Twilley’s encouragement from Barbara Stafford to consider the “delights of cross-disciplinary explorations.” We took our 15yo to the U of I College of Veterinary Medicine Open House the weekend before last. We had some invaluable conversations with students and staff on cross-disciplinary careers… Animal behaviorist, animal therapy for children, integrative veterinary medicine were some of the absolutely fascinating possibilities. Daughter isn’t sure she wants to completely abandon a teaching career, or some work with children, and is thinking about how to merge the two passions (animals and teaching/children). She has a solid, immediate offer to shadow a vet at a small clinic nearby. These people, such as the vet, who are working in careers for which they are passionate and willing to mentor and encourage a young person considering the profession, are also heroes :-)

    Thanks for the nice, uplifting read!

  • Craig Wright

    After teaching for 37 years, I still substitute at the public high school that I retired from. What a rewarding career. Content (you’ve got to know your stuff), Communication (you’ve got to explain it so they get it), and Character (the kids have to know you care). I taught in a low income area of Los Angeles, and have seen some former students come back to join the faculty. It is an honor to walk across the campus and be greeted by so many gracious and friendly students. There are challenges, deep disappointments, and victories.